The fee paid to non-statutory organisations for taking social work students on placement will be cut by almost a third, the government has announced.
Changes to the Education Support Grant (ESG) for the 2014 academic year will introduce a single flat-rate of £20 per student per day for all placements. The universal fee will replace the current two-track system where non-statutory providers are paid a daily rate of £28 per student and statutory providers get £18 per student.
The fees paid to universities and colleges to cover students’ skills development days will also be cut from £18 per day to £10 per day.
The changes were revealed in the government’s official response to the findings of its consultation on the ESG. Overall government funding for the ESG fell from around £28m in 2013-14 to £26m in 2014-15.
Some academics say the cuts to daily fees for non-statutory placements will hit independent sector organisations hard. One social enterprise told Community Care the loss of income from the changes could force it out of business.
Rachel Hek, Birmingham University’s head of qualifying practice learning, said: “It’s a complete disaster for our placements – I work with a lot of independent sector projects and social enterprises.”
“Slicing £8 [from the daily rate per student] is a lot of money,” she added. “Local authorities are obviously getting cut, but they’re not in the same position as some in the independent sector [who are largely without other funding].”
The Sweet Project, a Birmingham-based family support organisation which takes up to 70 students a year on placement from around the UK, estimates it could lose around £48,000 annually under the changes. Jayne Cresswell, a director a the organisation, fears the loss of income could force the project out of business.
“This only gives us weeks to be able to look [for funds],” she said. “I understand why the consultation was with the universities, but it would have been nice if they’d decided to talk to some providers, in order to see the massive impact this will have on student learning.”
The government says the fee reforms for the 2014 academic year are an “interim solution”. More substantial arrangements for the 2015 academic year and beyond will be announced after full consideration of the recommendations from the reviews of social work education carried out by Martin Narey and David Croisdale-Appleby published in recent months, the government’s report said.
The government’s consultation offered various options for the future of the ESG. These included dividing the ESG pot between colleges and universities based on student numbers the previous or the next year, or based on numbers of students in receipt of the social work bursary.
But 47 per cent of 64 respondents, dominated by education providers and local authorities, advocated maintaining things ‘as is’, with the ESG paid on demand to placement providers to cover admin and supervision costs of hosting social work students, and to higher education institutions for delivering skills development days, administering placements and involving service users and carers in education programmes (see below for more detail on these).
The changes: in numbers
Practice placement days
The existing twin-track system of paying statutory providers (mostly local authorities) £18 per day, with others receiving £28, is being controversially merged into a single £20 fee.
Skills development days
Higher education institutions (HEI) get £18 per student per day under the current system. While 73% of those consulted said funding should continue, some commented that placements should be prioritised and others called for more transparency on how it is used. It will now be cut to just £10 per day.
HEI admin fees
Intended to cover costs of HEIs administering placements, these are set to continue at £2 per day. They will not be paid out for skills development days.
Service user and carer funding
Eighty-one per cent of respondents backed maintaining this, with some calling for it to be increased to cover costs. It will remain static at £7,400 per course.
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