A learner find firm is attempting to broker a subcontracting deal for 16 to 18-year-old trainees who have already completed their placement at football clubs.
Prime providers that take up the offer from Develop Your Staff (DYS) would break government funding rules, according to an auditor.
An email from DYS, sent to providers with direct access to funding, asks: “Do you have any underspend on your 16-18 traineeship funding contract which needs spending?”
Of the five unnamed providers looking for access to funds, one of them “delivers sport traineeships and delivers nationally, great links with football clubs and fantastic success data”.
“They also [have] 65 unfunded learners based around London, all completed. Their prime ran out of funding so they were unable to process.”
Another is “seeking around £30,000 for their unfunded learners, they are based in Yorkshire and deliver sports and construction and in addition to the £30,000 they require, they would be looking at enrolling an additional 15 candidates per month”.
DYS’ hunt comes amid a consultation on radical Education and Skills Funding Agency rule changes. It states that “entering into subcontracting arrangements for financial gain” is not acceptable.
The consultation includes a dedicated section on subcontracting of sport related provision, as it is an area that the ESFA is “particularly concerned” about.
“While we recognise that it [subcontracted sports provision] provides access for some learners who might otherwise be disengaged, there have been cases where weaknesses in oversight arrangements have given cause for concern,” the ESFA has said.
“Problems have arisen as there is generally also a sports club involved as a third party in the programme which may provide specialist coaching, and the boundaries between the funded education programme and the associated coaching activities become blurred.”
Just last month FE Week revealed how a different training provider was offering a reward of just under £30,000 for simply adding their data on achieved learners to a government funding claim.
Existing ESFA ‘funding and performance management rules’ state that it is “vital” that all directly funded organisations must “properly monitor and control all subcontracted delivery”.
While DYS would not itself be in breach of any government funding guidelines, an experienced individual learner record auditor, who did not wish to be named, told FE Week that any provider who entered into a subcontracting arrangement after learners had already competed their traineeships would be breaking the funding rules.
Danny Scargill, the managing director of DYS, would not provide the names of the providers he is trying to broker subcontracts for, but he insisted the ESFA extract quoted by FE Week is “simply part of the commentary: it is not a rule”.
He said: “The providers we are working with, certainly in relation to our post, are not directly funded. We are simply helping to coordinate supply with demand.
“It is not a breach of the rules for any providers to use consultants to help accelerate their funding spend, certainly when there are critical situations or unexpected issues.
“A couple of the providers advertised have unfunded learners, learners who could ultimately be disadvantaged due to the providers losing funding from their primes. We have stepped in to help them with our large network of clients. I am sure you would agree that this not something that should be criticised.”
Scargill added: “We provide a particularly beneficial service in this sector. When a training provider loses funding, learners are always the people that suffer. They are left in limbo and are often unable to complete qualifications that they have started. This should not happen and, in some circumstances, we can help those learners by finding alternative funding streams that would otherwise be unavailable to their training providers.
“The funding allocation system that is currently in place is not perfect but we are helping to perfect it. With our assistance (and similar from other brokers) the market for learners continues to increase and learners have a safety net where their provider loses funding.”
DYS’ website states that it has “no upfront fees for our telemarketing service”…“we simply charge a fixed fee per candidate found”.
Scargill would not reveal how much his firm makes from placing each learner with a provider.