Fraud and error ‘getting worse’ in FE

Majority of £50m funding clawed back last year was from independent training providers

Majority of £50m funding clawed back last year was from independent training providers

Fraud and error in FE are getting “worse”, according to the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s director of finance, who has revealed there was £50 million worth of clawback last year.

Andrew Thomas, who heads up the agency’s provider market oversight division, said clamping down on misused funding was his “top priority” at this week’s Association of Employment and Learning Providers autumn conference.

He told provider leaders that his agency doesn’t want there to be “any clawback”, to give the assurance to parliament that taxpayers’ money is “being used as intended”.

Thomas said the “vast majority” of the £50 million funding taken back from education organisations by the agency last year was mostly retrieved from independent training providers.

He revealed the agency is now planning to publish summary reports of “all” investigations it undertakes into FE providers “to help you to understand what you shouldn’t be doing”.

It is not clear whether these reports will be based on individual providers. More details are expected in due course, Thomas said.

Last week, the agency published a “common findings” guide from funding assurance work on post-16 education providers, which listed a host of data issues its officials found in 2021/22.

Thomas said: “We’ve simplified things for employers and we’re making things easier for you to get it right first time, every time, in terms of was that individual employed at the beginning of the apprenticeship; were they employed for the duration; or was it that employer they were employed with, because we know these are some of the common errors that lead to problems.

“We want to do more to help you learn from others. It’s much better for us all to be standing on the shoulders of giants rather than reinventing the wheel,” he added.

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One comment

  1. Tony Allen

    Fraud and error are two very different things, and Mr Thomas clearly could not articulate the difference.
    There is no excuse for fraud, and providers should be prosecuted.
    Error however is partly due to the fact that the ESFA seem to find writing consistent rules across the Funding Rules and linked guidance documents impossible.
    Providers are confused, and I am not surprised given that the latest Funding Rules, Off Job and RPL guidance have at least 5 key areas of contradiction within them.
    Before blaming the sector, Mr Thomas needs to get his own house in order.