From education to employment

Reforming Apprenticeship Funding and Delivery for Adult Social Care

Jane Hickie

A crucial sector

Adult social care plays a crucial role in our society, yet the sector is in crisis. Whether large or small, public or private, employers are struggling to recruit and retain the workforce. Though Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic did not cause the crisis in adult social care, both have certainly exacerbated it.

Apprenticeship funding rates

We know that chronic underfunding of training is making matters much worse. In 2019, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) conducted a survey on apprenticeship funding rates for the Level 2 and Level 3 Adult Care Worker. Training providers said that the prescribed funding rate of £3000 per learner at Levels 2 and 3 was completely unviable. 96% of respondents 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.

As a result, 59% of the surveyed providers are either reducing the number of apprentice carers they train or withdrawing from the programme altogether. Adult care learners often have lower levels of literacy and numeracy, meaning most apprentices need Functional Skills Qualifications (FSQs). AELP’s research shows the funding for FSQs does not cover the cost of delivery, adding even more financial burden to the provider.

AELP were pleased to see the Department for Education include the Level 3 Diploma in Adult Care in the Level 3 Adult Offer funded by the National Skills Fund (NSF), following recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee. This represents the first fully- funded Level 3 Diploma for adults over 25. However, fewer than 20 Independent Training Providers (ITPs) were awarded contracts in the Adult Education Budget (AEB) procurement in 2021.

At a time when the adult social care sector is in such dire straits, you would think the government would take action to make the apprenticeship funding rates viable and allow for providers of all types to deliver crucial skills provision, so the whole sector can play their part in tackling the crisis.

Is the apprenticeship levy meeting the needs of social care employers?

The vast majority of Level 2 and 3 adult care starts are now through apprenticeship levy- paying employers, including a large proportion within the NHS itself. Going back to the funding rates, the only way for providers to make care work at £3000 per apprentice is purely on volume. Because of this, there is not much financial viability for non-levy employers. Some of AELP’s largest training providers say that they cannot afford to do much with smaller employers in the care sector, as this often incurs a loss. Likewise, smaller employers in care have a range of challenges – from how user-friendly the apprenticeship service is, to the affordability of co-investment.

Despite these challenges in the care sector, we have not actually seen the worrying trend that we have in other sectors, of management training outweighing entry level starts.

Quality and Accountability

Some of the smaller, newer providers who offer care training to non-levy employers have struggled to meet Ofsted’s training requirements and quality thresholds. This has not helped the perception of training providers delivering in the sector.

Furthermore, providers delivering adult care may struggle with achievement rates, often for factors out of their control. The sector has always struggled with staff retention. This will sadly, yet inevitably increase with the Care Quality Commission requirements around those entering care settings being double vaccinated against Covid-19, and some apprentices making the personal choice not to get vaccinated. In this instance, the apprentice has to be withdrawn from programme, again affecting achievement rates.

Recommendation 1

DfE and ESFA should increase the funding bands for Level 2 and Level 3 Adult Care Worker apprenticeships. An average response to our 2019 survey suggested that the appropriate level of funding for Level 2 would be £4,500 and for Level 3 it would be £5,400, taking both levy and non-levy employer costs into account.

Recommendation 2

Adult social care employers should be given cash incentives – whether that is an indirect wage subsidy or investment in infrastructure – to support the apprentice. We need a longer- term employer incentive scheme to build on the success of the Plan for Jobs.

Recommendation 3

DfE and ESFA should adopt more flexible measures around achievement to treat providers delivering adult care fairly, and not put good quality providers off from delivering these qualifications. There must be robust measures around quality and accountability, but these must factor in sector-specific nuances, which are out of providers’ control.

Jane Hickie, AELP

Reforming Adult Social Care – Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England

The Campaign for Learning’s report, Reforming Adult Social Care: Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England, is based on seventeen contributions from experts in both the adult social care sector and the post-16 education, skills and employability sectors. 

Three themes are common to most of the authors’ contributions – the scale of the adult social care sector in England, the complexity of policy making for the sector, and the need for greater integration of funding, pay, employment and skills. 

Part One: The Adult Social Care Sector

Part Two: Strategic Reforms to Adult Social Care

Part Three: Recruitment in the Context of a Skills-Based Immigration Policy

  • Becci Newton, Institute for Employment Studies: Improving Pay and Job Quality in Adult Social Care
  • Karolina Gerlich, The Care Workers’ Charity: Encouraging Young People and Adults to become Adult Care Workers
  • Chris Goulden, Youth Futures Foundation: A Career in Adult Social Care: The Views of Young People
  • Andrew Morton, ERSA: Targeting Active Labour Market Policies to Fill Adult Social Care Vacancies

Part Four: The Delivery and Design of Social Care Qualifications

Part Five: The Role of Post-16 Education and Skills Policies

Part Six: Adult Learning and Adult Social Care

  • Susan Pember, HOLEX: The Wider Benefits of Adult Learning for Adult Social Care
  • Simon Parkinson, WEA: Adult Learning for Adults in Social Care
  • Campaign for Learning: Proposals for reform in England 

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