The country’s unqualified adult carer crisis is being exacerbated by the government’s refusal to properly fund apprenticeships in the sector, according to a new survey published today.

Training providers who train Adult Care Worker apprentices say that the prescribed funding rate for the apprenticeship programme at levels 2 and 3 (intermediate and advanced) is completely unviable.  As a result, 59% of the surveyed providers are either reducing the number of apprentice carers they train or withdrawing from the programme altogether.

Other providers responding to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) survey said that they are being forced to introduce ‘cost efficiencies’ such as fewer in-person monitoring visits, increasing ratios of tutor to learner or charging employers more – all of which can impact on the quality of the apprenticeship programme.

A notable minority of providers are putting people on alternative courses such as customer service and management which they need but don’t offer health and social care content.  In the case of relevant standalone diplomas, funding is limited and employers sometimes complain that they don’t provide the work-readiness they are looking for.

Of the 144 providers who participated in the AELP survey, 96% of 137 who responded specifically on costs said that the current maximum funding of £3,000 to cover the costs of training and assessing an adult care worker apprentice at level 2 was insufficient with 99% agreeing that the same rate was not enough for a level 3 programme.

In stark contrast, the government’s Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has approved a funding rate of £5,000 for a level 2 Animal Care and Welfare Assistant apprenticeship programme.

Asked what a viable funding rate would be for an Adult Care Worker, the provider responses on average suggested that the appropriate level of funding for level 2 would be £4,500 and for level 3 it would be £5,400.  Variances in responses can be explained for example by whether the provider’s employer customers are a large levy paying organisation where economies of scale can apply or the employer is a small independent care home or care agency.  88% of providers believe that their employer customers would still be willing to pay the required 5% financial contribution towards the programme funding if the funding rate was higher.

The survey results follow this week’s publication of initial findings by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Care which indicates that as many as 500,000 unqualified people could be passing themselves off as trained care workers, putting the care of millions of senior citizens at risk.  The National Association of Care and Support Workers was quoted as saying that “there is huge potential for abuse” but in the meantime the government is seemingly content to preside over a sharp fall in the number of adult care worker apprentices because the prescribed funding rate is unviable.

MarkDawe 100x100AELP CEO Mark Dawe said:

‘The government has got to sort this out now.  Otherwise, as MPs on all sides of the Commons recognise, a full blown crisis is going to get even worse.  Without wishing to sound facetious, properly caring for Tiddles for some reason attracts 66% more funding for an apprenticeship than training a person to care for the elderly members of our community.  I can’t imagine that the policymakers would want their own family members to be at risk, so let’s get our priorities right.’

AELP is therefore calling for IfATE to instigate an immediate review of the £3,000 funding cap on level 2 and 3 apprenticeships for the Adult Care Worker standard with a view to increasing the funding to £4,500 for level 2 and £5,400 for level 3.

AELP also warns the government not to repeat the repeat the catastrophic error in failing to respond to the Save Our Early Years Campaign for nearly three years when the DfE insisted in 2014 that all level 3 Early Years Educators should have at least a Grade C in GCSE English and maths to count in the staff ratios of nurseries and other childcare settings.  A significant shortfall in level 3 educators resulted with numbers only now being restored.

Adult care worker apprentice funding survey results from AELP

  1. There is widespread consensus among apprenticeship training providers in the care sector that a £3,000 cap on funding is insufficient to deliver the standards at level 2 and level 3.  Of the 137 who responded on cost, all with close knowledge of this training, 96% said £3,000 is not enough for level 2 and 99% for level 3.
  1. Averaging out the responses which varied according to the size of employer customers (levy or non-levy) and overall volume of learners, the appropriate level of funding for level 2 would be £4,500 and for level 3 would be £5,400.
  1. Without a change to the funding, the total number of apprenticeship opportunities for care sector workers is very likely to fall.  29% (32) of providers say they will increase the number of apprentices trained, 13% (15) will train the same number, 31% (35) will cut numbers and 28% (31) will stop doing these apprenticeships altogether.
  1. Most respondents say there are no suitable alternative training programmes.  Some relevant courses do exist in the form of standalone diplomas. These diplomas are thought good and appropriate by a minority, but funding for these is very limited (for example from the Adult Education Budget, if available, for the unemployed) and they don’t always provide the work-readiness which employers are looking for.  Old NQFs/diplomas are liked by the providers but have been ‘switched off’ by the funding agency.
  1. The apprenticeship standards have qualifications incorporated within them (at 46 credits for L2 and 58 credits for L3), which makes them potentially very attractive to employers and apprentices if funded appropriately.

Provider comments in response to the AELP survey include:

“We cannot deliver a quality product at this cost. The standard of training will slip if providers cut corners. This will impact on the welfare of the care industry.”

“The funding band is not enough to provide a quality service for at least 12 months. There is a great deal more work in a standard and you have to pay 15-20% in EPA costs.”

“I wouldn't want a low skilled practitioner caring for my loved one at the end of their life.”

“Most apprentices are existing employees [with no or low skills] who need these qualifications to progress their careers, but the current apprenticeships make this unviable.”

“We continue to run apprenticeships in adult social care as we believe it is morally right that people working in such an important sector continue to have access to training and development. We run the programmes at a loss and have questioned whether for financial reasons alone, it is the correct decision. We are fortunate to have a business owner who has a passion for the care sector and its continued professionalism and does this despite the financial loss.”

“We receive £7,000 to deliver level 2 Hairdressing - why should something as important and undersubscribed as Social Care only be £3,000?”

About the AELP survey and respondents

  1. AELP Research surveyed 113 providers of the adult care worker apprenticeships and a further 22 who used to provide these but stopped = 135.  An additional 9 organisations interested in this area but not with direct experience of delivery also responded.  Total respondents 144; Percentages below are out of providers (135).
  1. Respondents are currently training over 20,000 level 2 and around 17,000 level 3 care workers.
  1. The 118 current providers, who answered (not quite all did), train an average of 176 level 2 and 144 level 3 adult care worker apprentices.
  1. The large majority of respondents are independent training providers (79%), followed by colleges (12%), employer providers (4%) and various others totalling 5%.

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