Providers hit by SFA funding software crash with data deadline looming

Long-running problems with new Skills Funding Agency (SFA) payment software appeared to hit providers again when the Hub data collection system crashed.

It went down as providers were trying to submit data for the R12 data return by the deadline of Wednesday, August 6, prompting an SFA apology and extra day for submissions.

The Hub is an online facility for providers to submit their monthly individualised learner record data, which is used to calculate payments among others things.

The SFA’s revamp of its data collections and funding system was due to have been completed more than a year ago, but it took until July 4 for the Hub data collection system to be in use to calculate provider payments for the first time.

However, it has suffered ongoing problems leading to the continued use of the old Online Data Collection (OLDC) as a crutch for the Hub, since September.

An SFA spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise for any difficulties encountered during the last period of the R12 data collection.

“We were first made aware of a system issue at 4pm on Tuesday, August 5, prior to which there had been no reported issues with the system.

“Once this issue had been identified, we communicated with our system users, via feconnect and Twitter, and worked with our suppliers to identify the cause of the issue. We continue to work with the suppliers to ensure that the issue does not recur.”

It is understood that a number of data returns made to the OLDC system, while the Hub was down, will be used to calculate payments.

An SFA post on the feconnect online forum said: “If you submitted ILR R12 data to OLDC on August 6 and were unable to submit the same data to the Hub, we will process the OLDC file for payment.

“”The Hub was available on August 7 while we transferred files between systems. We have now completed our work. We have included any files submitted on August 7.”

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Stewart Segal said: “We hope that the current issues with the SFA systems are a temporary issue and that they will be resolved quickly.

“Clearly if they do persist, the SFA has to take the data issues into account when they do their quarterly reviews and they have to understand the impact on provider cashflow.”

The SFA spokesperson told FE Week: “All data submitted has been captured and the Hub was available on Thursday while we transferred files between systems. We have now completed our work and have included any files submitted on Thursday. The data collections system will next be available from August 21 for the return of ILR R01 data for the funding year 2014 to 2015.

“Should anyone have any concerns they can contact the Service Desk for technical, or their named Central Delivery Service adviser regarding all other issues.”

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  1. Well, saying that there had been no problems reported prior to 4pm is a slight bending of the truth. During several failed attempts to get a file onto the Hub during the course of the 5th of August I called the SFA helpdesk a number of times and received an automated message stating “we are aware of ongoing issues with The Hub, please continue trying to submit your file” – all of this was well before 4pm. Around 4pm a new message was released saying that the issues had been resolved – yet more inaccurate information from them.

  2. This fiasco has gone on far too long. Nothing is reliable anymore. It’s a complete dog’s breakfast (sorry to any dogs reading this). It should be a simple sum to add up all the providers expected to make a return, multiply by the average file size and that’s the capacity you can expect each month (I’m available as a consultant by the way and would not charge more than £1m to tell you how to do this). I’m considering buying some floppy disks and submitting our data like we did in the good old days. Don’t get me started on LAD, LARA, Spreadsheet evolution. How many more years will it take before we get back to where we were two years ago?