£55m cuts to support services 'incredibly unfair'

16th March 2017 at 18:11
While overall FE funding will rise, 'funding to support' cash is being trimmed, which could affect services provided by the Skills Funding Agency

Cuts of over £55 million to support services in FE are “incredibly unfair” and could put pressure on the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), a funding expert has said.

Despite overall funding for FE increasing by £224 million next year, according to the skills funding letter published earlier this week, the allocation for "funding to support" apprenticeships and adult education is set to be cut by more than £55 million for 2017-18.

A Department for Education spokesperson told TES this funding included the apprenticeship grant for employers, as well as "the National Careers Service, quality improvement, data collection and management, financial support for learners and funding for community learning mental health pilots". This funding will be reduced from £461 million in 2016-17 to £405 million in 2017-18.

Steve Hewitt, a management information systems (MIS) consultant working for consultancy FE Associates, warned that these cuts could affect the SFA. “Traditionally [funding to support] has been the funding line where the staff of the SFA have been accounted for…If they face yet another massive cut/reorganisation it will be incredibly unfair, both to them and to providers,” Mr Hewitt said.

“Look at the mess we've had with data systems this year, not to mention delays to pretty much every announcement or deadline SFA has set itself. Imagine how much worse it could get with a further 16 per cent cut and the promise of much more to come.”

More cuts on the way

According to indicative figures in the funding letter, "funding to support" is set to be reduced by £177 million between 2016-17 and 2019-20, with support services for adult education being cut by over £130 million.

A spokesperson from the Department for Education said: “The Department has increased funding to support adult FE and apprenticeship participation. The changes to funding to support outlined in the skills funding letter for 2016-17 enabled us to do this.”

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