Serious concerns about funding cuts for 16-18 year old apprentices have been raised by shadow skills minster Gordon Marsden, in a letter to apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon based on FE Week research.
He referred directly to our analysis, published last month, which showed that proposed funding for apprentices from that age group would lead to current rates to providers being cut by around 30 per cent, rising to over half for those living in most deprived areas of central London.
The letter warned that the proposals “offer a damaging lack of support for young apprentices and further weaken proposed attempts to widen participation”.
Mr Marsden added that he was “extremely concerned at the potential adverse effects for social mobility stemming from the proposed new apprenticeship funding methods”.
“These changes have the potential to cause catastrophic consequences for young people in the most deprived areas,” he added.
Mr Marsden also pushed Mr Halfon (pictured left) for an answer on when the relevant impact assessment of the funding changes would be published.
He said the plans showed “little awareness of the equality implications” or the risk of “potentially putting off more small employers from taking on young people in this age range”.
Mr Marsden’s concerns, he added, were motivated by both his role as shadow skills minister and as MP for Blackpool, “where getting small employers on board is crucial to our local economic wellbeing”.
In speaking to FE Week before sending the letter, he also said: “If you had designed something deliberately to produce perverse incentives in the apprenticeship programme, you couldn’t have done it more brilliantly.”
Mr Marsden told FE Week that he intends to follow up on his letter in Monday’s parliamentary questions to Mr Halfon.
His protest comes just a week before the closure of the consultation on ‘Proposals for apprenticeship funding in England from May 2017’, which ends on Monday.
On August 23, David Lammy, former minister for HE and MP for Tottenham, also spoke out in response to FE Week’s research — slamming the prime minister for the proposed funding cuts.
He asked why the government was “shafting” the future of working class kids, saying that the impact of the potential cuts would be “devastating” for young people in deprived areas like his constituency.
As a result of current factors such as additional funding for 16 to 18 apprentices and a ‘disadvantage uplift’ for apprentices living in a deprived area, the highest funding levels at present go to 16 to 18 apprentices living and working in Tottenham.
The proposed funding changes bypass these other sources of money, and therefore would mean Tottenham and other central London areas were hit the hardest – potentially losing up to 50 per cent of their current funding for this age group.
In comparison, monies for many learners aged 24 and over would go up, particularly those living in affluent areas outside the South East and working for large employers.
Mr Lammy concluded the cuts would “hugely undermine” the government’s target to create 3m apprenticeships by 2020, and “entirely contradict” Theresa May’s promise to boost social mobility.
Mr Marsden today received an acknowledgement of the letter from Mr Halfon’s office, which said it would provide a comprehensive response “shortly”.