It is clear the SFA crackdown on subcontracting is increasingly pushing it underground.

Our findings this week on the rise of this hidden subcontracting have genuinely shocked me.

Some will try to claim ‘associate partnerships’ aren’t subcontracting because it is no different from using a recruitment agency to source a trainer.

This is nonsense, given the partner sources the learner, trainer and training facility.

It’s very clearly subcontracting in all but name, to avoid SFA bans for loans-funded provision and second-level subcontracting.

There is in fact a history of hiding subcontracting, if you go back a little over 15 years.

In 1999 the Further Education Funding Council called it ‘franchised’ provision.

Providers were found trying various partnership deals to claim it was still direct provision, and thus avoid the 1/3 automatic franchise funding discount.

In an important document at the time, FEFC circular 99/37, the funding body emphasised: “Partnership arrangements involving public funds should be transparent and available for scrutiny.”

If prompt action isn’t again taken, the SFA subcontracting bans and safeguards will be futile.

All ‘associate partnership’ deals need to be declared and should be classed as subcontracting.

No excuses and no hiding, for the sake of vulnerable learners and safeguarding public funds.

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  1. We’re a small provider and we’ve been operating for just under 4 years. I’ve personally been involved in work based learning for over 20 years, I started my business as I grew tired of the unethical workings of providers I’d worked for – all of whom were direct contract holders, one was even a ‘Grade 1’ provider. I wanted to get away from all the fraud, lies and manipulation of data.

    One of the primes we worked with nearly put us out of business, to the point we had to write off tens of thousands of pounds and take out debt to keep the company alive. That was a ‘Grade 1’ provider too.

    Due to the debt and losses we made that year, we’ve not even been able to apply to RoATP, as we wouldn’t get on due to the financial health check. Fair enough.

    We delivered 88% success rates last year on apprenticeships, our prime delivered around the mid-60s.

    I know these deals sound unscrupulous, but we have an associate loan agreement with a provider who take a huge amount of money from us, if we didn’t have it we wouldn’t be here delivering quality provision and through our small, ethical approach – actually doing some good.

    I know things like this need to be looked at, but realistically my business who are an associate on Learner Loans and doing a good job, will be the victims here. The prime providers who operate like sharks for cash over quality will remain as they are. Edudo as an example had a loan contract because they passed SFA due diligence, it’s organisations like theirs and their practices that are the issue, not the fact they used ‘associates’ to deliver.