Ward Warning – get data right else face funding clawback

The Skills Funding Agency has written to all colleges and independent learning providers to make sure they are aware of data compliance with funding rules.

Dawn Ward (pictured), chair of the SFA’s data and management information advisory group, sent the letter as part of a new in-year financial assurance monitoring process.

Just before Christmas in 2014, more than 700 FE providers were outraged when they were warned by the SFA’s deputy director Una Bennett that they faced a shock clawback on that year’s funding after the agency “identified some provision that has been incorrectly claimed”.

But following outcry on the funding agency’s Feconnect online forum, where some stakeholders claimed the warning had caused “sleepless nights”, SFA director Keith Smith issued an apology for the letter.

Subsequently, nearly 100 providers were asked to repay funding, with the remaining 601 providers who had been contacted spared from a reclaim.

In this week’s letter, Ms Ward wrote: “It is important that as a sector we now make sure our data is accurate before the end of the funding year 2015/16.

“If the SFA has identified records in a monitoring area, you must review this data and determine whether you need to make any data corrections. You should make these in your next ILR submission.

“You must ensure that you have the evidence to justify the funding claimed where the data is correct, including your subcontractors’ data.”

Ms Ward said the SFA must have “confidence” in funding claims and are taking this action to “ensure we work effectively together to reduce the volume of data errors” at the end of the year.

She added: “If you have data errors at the end of the funding year following the closure of R14 ILR return, the SFA may recover funding and conduct assurance visits for specific issues.”

The SFA said records must be corrected before the close of the R14 ILR data submission on October 20 this year.

The SFA has also published the key findings from its Provider Financial Management and Assurance work in 2015/16.

One of the most significant findings from the report was that providers were unable to evidence the delivery of learner support for which they received funding.

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  1. The reports are cross provider and or cross year reports which bring new data to providers which is good.

    Unfortunately the reports fail to address the fact that we are forcing students who have achieved a Level 2 in Maths and/or English to do the same Level GCSE in these subjects massively duplicating L2 funding and further alienating students.

    The reports also do not tell us that there has been a dip in funding claims for additional learning support because the department have constructed a vastly complex system for claiming, while hiding any allocation you may have had for additional learning support in the ASB.

    There are also a mass of reports that show where Colleges data errors result in them under claiming funding far in excess of the amounts in this suite of reports, but these are not in the interests of the SFA so go unpublished.

    A nice one sided attack on College data

    It is a bit like these data inconsistencies cost the sector £250,000 but the complexity of the system means that an eligible £1million in funding remains unclaimed.