Section 4. Skills Programmes Funding Rules
From 1st August 2019, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) became responsible for certain adult education functions of the Secretary of State under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. This transfer of functions was achieved by way of orders made under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 and the West Midlands Combined Authority (Adult Education Functions) Order 2018 (SI 2018/1144)
Ministers have agreed under a Memorandum of Understanding and a Data Sharing Agreement certain functions and activities will be undertaken by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) on behalf of the WMCA for the 2022/23 funding year.
The WMCA is publishing these funding rules, which will apply to providers in receipt of devolved WMCA, Adult education budget funding, Free Courses for Jobs (FCFJ) funding and the National Skills Fund (NSF) Technical Bootcamps and Multiply, funding from 1 August 2022, for delivery to residents in the West Midlands. This excludes the 19-24 traineeship programme and apprenticeships.
These Skills funding rules apply to all residents in the WMCA area starting new learning aims on or after 1 August 2022. The WMCA will also have responsibility for continuing residents who commenced learning in 2021/2022. You must ensure you meet the cost of continuing learners within your WMCA Skills Programmes allocation.
Principles of funding
WMCA have set out our strategy for 2022-25 which can be found here.
We will fund eligible learners where the WMCA have formally agreed the allocation and qualifications with the provider.
Contract for Services Providers can only deliver what has been agreed within the Delivery Plan. The WMCA will also monitor your performance to ensure that the funding you received from the WMCA is delivering high-quality provision for adults within the WMCA area and represents good value for money.
You must hold evidence to assure us that you are using WMCA funding appropriately. Most evidence will occur naturally from your normal business process, but if required by the WMCA, additional evidence should be retained. It is a condition of funding that all outcomes for WMCA residents, either directly delivered by you or your supply chain delivery members, are recorded on the ILR.
The WMCA Skills funding must only be utilised to fund WMCA residents. Funding cannot be transferred between different budgets, including, where applicable, your ESFA Adult Education Budget, Free Courses for Jobs (FCFJ) funding and the National Skills Fund (NSF) Technical Bootcamps, and Multiply Apprenticeships, and advanced resident loans.
If the WMCA considers the delivery is not resulting in positive outcomes for adults in the WMCA area and/or the quality of provision is not to the required standard, the WMCA may (following a discussion with you) reduce your grant allocation or contract value. Equally, if you are finding it difficult to deliver your allocation or have unmet demand, then we want you to tell us.
Additional information is contained in the Skills Programmes Provider Payment & Performance Management Framework.
Skills Programmes Provider Payment & Performance Management Framework should be read alongside your Contract/Grant Agreement and WMCA funding rules, as they all form part of your contractual relationship with the WMCA.
You must provide accurate unique resident number (ULN) information to awarding organisations and ensure all information you use to register residents for qualifications is correct. You can find more information about the Personal Learner Record Service.
The WMCA may make concessions in the funding rules responding to a specific economic event impacting residents e.g., pandemic, climate event or significant restructuring of large employer leading to residents at risk of redundancy. This will be agreed upon on a case-by-case basis.
Additional principles of funding for Free Courses for Jobs (FCFJ) funding can be here.
Additional principles of funding for National Skills Fund (NSF) Technical Bootcamps can be found here.
Additional principles for funding Multiply can be found here
What the WMCA will not fund
Provision that is not part of a provider’s delivery plan or has not been given prior written approval via our internal business case process.
Residents that do not have an eligible WMCA postcode.
It is a provider’s responsibility to ensure the relevant funding is secured from the relevant funding body in 2022/23 for their residents.
You must not claim funding where a resident only sits or resits a learning aim
assessment or examination and no extra learning takes place.
You must not claim funding for any provision you deliver to a resident whose learning is taking place outside of the WMCA.
You must not claim funding for any part of any resident’s learning aim or programme that duplicates provision they have received from any other source.
Training through WMCA funded Skills programmes, where a learner is undertaking or planning to undertake an apprenticeship and where that training will:
- replicate vocational and other learning aims covered by the apprenticeship standard or framework, including English and maths
- offer career-related training that conflicts with the apprenticeship aims
be taking place during the apprentices working hours. Where an apprentice has more than one job, working hours refers to the hours of the job the apprenticeship is linked to
The WMCA will not fund a resident to repeat the same regulated qualification where they have previously achieved it unless it is for any GCSE where the resident has not achieved grade C, or grade 4, or higher.
You must not use your WMCA Skills allocation to deliver provisions to residents in custody. The Ministry of Justice funds prison education in England. Please note, that you can use your WMCA Skills Programmes to fund individuals released on temporary licence.
Skills Bootcamps are also open, to serving prisoners due to be released within 6 months of completing a Skills Bootcamp, and those on temporary release.
Fees and charging
You must not make compulsory charges relating to the direct costs of delivering a learning aim to learners we fully fund, including those with a legal entitlement to full funding for their learning. Direct costs include any essential activities or materials without which the learner could not complete and achieve their learning.
If a fully funded learner needs a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to participate in learning, you cannot charge them for this. If the learning is associated with the learner’s employment, their employer is responsible for carrying out and paying for this check.
When charging a fee to co-funded learners, the sum of the government contribution and the learner’s fee must not exceed the fully funded weighted rate for the learning aim, and the learner should not have to pay more than 50% of the unweighted rate.
Qualifying days for funding
A resident must be in learning for a minimum number of days between their learning start date and learning planned end date before you can earn funding, including learning support.
The guidance below sets out the minimum days required for funding
Planned length of learning aim
Minimum qualifying days
168 or more days
14 – 167 days
Fewer than 14 days
This does not apply where the resident achieves the learning aim.
Please note this doesn’t apply for Lot 8 Digital bootcamps, which will be based on a different payment methodology. Refer to Lot 8 Digital bootcamp guidance for more information.
Multiply, which will be based on a different payment methodology. Refer to Multiply Operational Plan issued with your contract.
Recognition of prior learning
A resident could have prior learning that has been previously accredited by an awarding organisation or could be formally recognised and count towards a qualification. If this is the case, you must:
- reduce the funding amount claimed for the learning aim by the percentage of learning and assessment the resident does not need
- follow the policies and procedures set by the awarding organisation for delivery and assessment of the qualification
- not claim funding if the prior learning meets the full requirements of the awarding organisation to achieve the learning aim
- ensure you have a robust internal RPL policy and appropriate resources to deliver RPL
You must not use prior learning to reduce funding for:
- English and maths qualifications up to and including level 2
- Essential digital skills qualifications up to and including level 1
The WMCA does not set limits on the length of time of either prior learning or previously certificated learning. However, where the individual’s learning and/or achievement occurs outside of five years, you must assess whether the learning is still valid and relevant.
If a resident enrols on an advanced subsidiary (AS) level qualification followed by an A level, you must reduce the funding claimed for the A level to take account of the prior study of the AS level and record this in the ‘Funding adjustment for prior learning’ field in the ILR. You can access ILR information in the guidance linked here.
Starting, participating, and achieving
You can only claim WMCA-funded Skills Programmes when directly related to learning starts. This would not include enrolment, induction, prior assessment, diagnostic testing, or similar learning.
You can only claim additional activity if this was agreed as part of your Delivery Plan.
For your direct delivery, and any subcontracted delivery, you (and where relevant, your supply chain delivery member(s)) must have a valid UKPRN, direct centre approval and where appropriate, direct qualification approval from the respective awarding organisation for the regulated qualifications you are offering.
Delivery of the qualification (including resident registration with the awarding organisation) for direct delivery and any delivery by your supply chain member(s) must be in line with the qualification specification and guidance set out by the relevant awarding organisation.
You must have evidence that the learning took place, and the resident was not certificated for prior knowledge.
Where the learning is certificated, you must follow the relevant awarding organisation’s procedure for claiming the relevant certificate(s) and ensure the resident receives them. You must evidence this has happened in the resident file.
Breaks in learning
You can suspend learning while the resident takes an agreed and organised break from learning, where it is known that the intention of the resident is to return.
This allows the resident to continue later with the same eligibility that applied when they first started their learning. Typical examples include for economic reasons, long term sickness, maternity leave or religious trips.
You must record the date a learner starts a break in learning and the date they restart their learning in the ILR.
You must have evidence that the learner agrees to return and continue with the same learning aim; otherwise, you must report the learner as withdrawn. When the learner returns to learning, you must re-plan and extend the remaining delivery as required.
Breaks in learning must not be used to ‘suspend’ learning where contact is lost, or the attendance or academic performance of the resident is poor.
You must not use a break in learning for short-term absences, such as holidays or short-term illness.
The WMCA will not fund a resident during a break in learning.
Confirmation and signatures
The resident or employer must confirm the information is correct when it is collected. You must have evidence of this, which can include electronic formats.
The WMCA accepts electronic evidence, including digital signatures, but you must have wider systems and processes in place to ensure that residents exist and are eligible for funding. You must keep effective and reliable evidence.
Both electronic and digital signatures are acceptable, we do not specify which should be used, only that a secure process to obtain and store signatures is followed:
- An electronic signature is defined as any electronic symbol or process that is associated with any record or document where there is an intention to sign the document by any party involved.
- An electronic signature can be anything from a check box to a signature and/or
- A digital signature is where a document with an electronic signature is secured by a process making it non-refutable.
- It is a digital fingerprint which captures the act of signing by applying security to a document. Usually, documents which have a digital signature embedded are extremely secure and cannot be accessed or amended easily
Where an electronic or digital signature is being held, from any party for any reason, you must ensure it is non-refutable. This includes the definitions of both wet and dry signatures. Systems and processes must be in place to assure us the original signature has not been altered. Where any document needs to be renewed, and a new signature taken, it must be clear from when the new document takes effect, and both must be held.
You are responsible for making the evidence you hold easily available when the WMCA needs it.
Self-declarations by residents
All self-declarations must confirm the resident’s details and describe what the resident is confirming, which includes requirements set out in this document.
If a resident self-declares prior attainment, you must check this in the personal learning record (PLR) and query any contradictory information with the resident. The PLR will not necessarily override the resident’s self-declaration.
WMCA-funded residents must also complete a self-declaration form to confirm that they are employed if they are undertaking WMCA flexibilities for those in employment. Where self-declaration for employment outcomes is being made, WMCA will require additional evidence as proof of employment i.e. wage slip.
You must report the learning actual end date in the ILR for a resident who leaves learning as the last day, to evidence that they took part in learning.
As a condition of funding, all destinations and/or progression details of WMCA residents are a mandatory requirement, this includes Community Learning.
Providers must limit ‘unknown’ destination reporting.
Destination and progression must be detailed in the defined fields within the ESFA ILR.
All resident postcodes must be accurately recorded at the start of an aim.
It is mandatory to update destination and progression data in the ILR monthly.
Data Submission - Individualised learner record (ILR) & Course Data
You must submit ILR data or other agreed formats of learner data from the beginning of the academic year (R01) and then monthly. We expect providers to notify WMCA should you be unable to submit for any reason. The WMCA reserves the right not to make payments if your learner data is not submitted.
You must accurately complete all ILR fields as required in the ILR specification, even if they are not required for funding purposes.
You must provide accurate unique learner number (ULN) information to awarding organisations and ensure all information you use to register learners for qualifications is correct. You can find more information in the Learner Records Service guidance.
The ILR must accurately reflect the learning and support (where applicable) you have identified, planned, and delivered to eligible individuals. You must not report inaccurate information that would result in an overstatement of the funding claimed.
Where your data does not support the funding claimed, we will take action to correct this, and we could recover funds you overstated.
In addition to the information in this section, the Performance and management rules have been provided, which sets out how you should submit data and how the WMCA will undertake its financial due diligence, make payments, performance manage, audit and gain assurance from its providers.
WMCA has provided extra guidance regarding ILR coding; please refer to the WMCA Coding guidance for more information.
You should also refer to the ESFA ILR specification and provider manual for 2022/23, and any other relevant documents referred to in those documents.
The WMCA reserves the right to match this funding at source.
You must not use the payments that we make to you in 2022/23 as match funding for any ESF projects with any co-financing organisation or Managing Authority direct bids without clear written permission in advance from the WMCA.
Match funding requests should be submitted at least 3 weeks prior to providers making a bid for ESF funds.
Where approved WMCA devolved Skills Programmes will only be eligible as match for activity across the seven constituent local authorities. These include Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
Where approved, you must return complete ILR data, including contact details such as telephone numbers, and you must only return ‘not knowns’ in exceptional circumstances. You must ensure data for employment status prior to starting, household situation, prior attainment and destination is returned, as these are important for match funding. If the information is not provided, or ‘not known’, or is not available, then you must use ‘learner has withheld this information.
You and your supply chain must follow the retention of documents, ‘publicity’ and horizontal themes rules, and provide evidence as detailed in the funding and performance management rules 2014 to 2020 European Social Fund (ESF) programme.
You and your supply chain must follow the evaluation, surveys and annual implementation reporting rules in the ESF 2014 to 2020 funding rules.
You must keep to the rules of the ESF programme, or you will break the conditions of your contract, and this could result in us recovering funds. This includes keeping to the eligibility evidencing rules in the ‘evidence pack’ section of this document.
Learning in the workplace
The WMCA will fund learning in the workplace where a resident has a statutory entitlement to full funding for:
- English and/or maths up to and including level 2 and/or
- Essential digital skills qualification, up to and including level 1
- A first full level 2 or
- First full level 3 qualification
We will fund learning in the workplace for the Free Courses for Job offer.
The WMCA will also fund learning in the workplace for work experience linked to a Sector Based Work Academy (SWAP) as part of your delivery plan.
The WMCA will consider funding provision in the workplace where:
- The WMCA has agreed a concession related to significant economic shock impacting on groups of residents e.g., large-scale redundancy
Job outcome definitions
Job outcome payments link to standard programmes. For fully funded learners who are unemployed, we will pay 50% of the achievement payment if they start a job before achieving the learning aim. If the learner then achieves the learning aim, we will pay the remaining achievement payment.
Job outcome payments linked to Pre-employment programmes. For funding the learner must have met the conditions of funding listed in the specification for that course, this could include a day 1 payment and 13-week sustainment. The specification for payment and costing will be found in each programme specification.
The following conditions apply:
- the resident must provide you with evidence through a declaration, that they have a job for 16 hours or more a week for four consecutive weeks. Universal Credit work allowances may still apply for those residents eligible who become employed and will reduce in time based on the earnings taper rate.
- Where the learner was claiming benefits relating to unemployment, they must also declare that they have stopped claiming these.
The learner must provide you with evidence through a declaration, that they have a job for at least 16 hours or more a week for four consecutive weeks.
The WMCA will continually review and monitor whether the education and training you provide are delivering positive and agreed outcomes as detailed and agreed by WMCA within your 2022/23 Delivery Plan. If grant providers are reaching the tolerances of their delivery plan, including legal entitlement, you will need to ensure the WMCA is notified.