Employability Fund Training Providers can view COVID-19 interim measures below, offering advice, support and relevant contact information.

Skills Development Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Government, has launched a Grant Scheme for Modern Apprenticeship (MA) and Employability Fund (EF) training providers.

This grant funding is available through the Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy in the Current Covid-19 Outbreak. 

The funding support has been created to add value to existing UK and Scottish Government aid and is designed to assist eligible providers with the costs of providing continuity of contracted services for apprentices, learners and employers during the pandemic.   

What does it provide?

The Grant-in-Aid scheme offers eligible SDS MA and EF contract holders a monthly grant payment. The scheme initially covered the period of April to June 2020 and has now been extended to include July, August, September and October 2020.

Support is calculated each month as 1/12th of the contract value, minus payments already made and paying 40% of the balance, capped at actual costs.

Some providers have already claimed over the calculated monthly payment and will therefore not receive any relief payment for the month concerned. 

Who can apply?

Contracted MA and EF training providers who are continuing to deliver contracted and supported services for apprentices, employers and learners during the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for the relief funding.

For the purposes of the grant eligibility this will be evidenced by at least one FIPS claim for each month and demonstration by providers – through completion of a template - that they are continuing to work with 60% or more of their apprentices or learners, and for MA providers also evidencing contact with 60% of available employers.

When is it available?

For applications covering April, May and June 2020:

Applications have now closed for support for the months of April, May and June 2020. Payments will commence following a review and approval of the application.

For applications covering July and August 2020:

Applications have now closed for support for the months of July and August 2020. Payments will commence following a review and approval of the application. 

The Control Sheet for August is available. 

For applications covering September and October 2020: 

Applications for support covering the months of September and October 2020 can be made from 1 September until noon on 29 October 2020. 

Eligibility and criteria for applications will be the same as the initial relief that covers the months of July and August 2020. 

Applications to claim for these two months only will be open until noon on 29 October, with a 60 day reconciliation period. The Control Sheet should be returned 15 days after the end of the Active Financial Period. 

 

Interim Measures

SDS has introduced interim measures to the EF Rules 2020-21 to support both Employability Fund starts and those in-training, where Providers activity has been disrupted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

The interim measures outlined on this webpage will be in place from 1st April 2020 to 31 March 2021 and we will continue to review the situation and keep you updated on any new guidelines.  

Please note, for anything not outlined in the interim measures, the Employability Fund Programme Rules 2020-21 apply.  

Providers must continue to input all information to FIPS, keep all documentation required as per the Employability Fund Programme Rules 2020-21, and ensure all documentation is available to upload to FIPS on request. 

It is essential that FIPS is kept up to date with participant information timeously.  

If you have specific issues that are not addressed by the guidance here and in the FAQs, please contact your Skills Investment Adviser. 

EF Interim Fact Sheets (April – June 2020)

If  Providers are proposing to deliver EF from now to 30 June 2020, Providers must submit an Interim Fact Sheet (a blank template is available on the SDS Provider Web Pages) detailing how they propose to deliver training to participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. This must be approved by an SDS Skills Investment Adviser before any starts/referrals can be made.  

EF Fact Sheet 2020-21 (July 2020 onwards)

An EF Fact Sheet 2020-21 (July 2020 onwards) must be completed by all EF Providers to detail their proposed EF delivery from July 2020 onwards (a blank template is available on the SDS Provider Web Pages).  An EF Provider Fact Sheet must be completed by the EF Provider for all EF contracted provision in each Local Employability Partnership (LEP) Area in line with their contract allocation.  

The EF Provider must submit their completed Fact Sheet(s) to Skills Investment Adviser (SIA) for approval.  Approval from SDS must be received before any referrals can be made.

Please ensure you keep in touch with your Skills Investment Adviser to highlight any further changes to delivery and content of provision, e.g. re-opening of centres, introduction of work experience, changes to qualifications.  An updated Fact Sheet must be re-submitted to SIA for approval to reflect any changes.

CIAG Referrals 

The Employability Fund Provider should expect an encrypted and password protected copy of the EFEC to be sent by email by SDS CIAG with the following statement:  

“I hereby confirm that *insert individual’s name* has given consent for SDS to transfer personal data to *insert organisation referred to*. This permission will be held electronically in SDS’s client management system.” 

As from Monday 5 October 2020, an individual who has accepted voluntary redundancy from their employer since 1 March 2020 and is within the 13 weeks immediately prior to their date of redundancy is eligible for entry to the EF.  A copy of the redundancy letter is required as evidence.

DWP Referrals 

As from Tuesday 04 August 20 the following process has been agreed with DWP:

  • Provider identifies a DWP customer who is a suitable EF referral
  • Provider sends e-mail to the individual requesting positive confirmation that individual is interested in EF and that individual gives consent for Provider to share Name and National Insurance number data with DWP to confirm eligibility.
  • Provider contacts their DWP district contact by email, attaching participant consent email, and requests confirmation of individual EF eligibility
  • DWP district contact confirms eligibility by e-mail to the Provider within 2 working days
  • Please note full eligibility criteria applies
  • Provider completes Appendix 2 – EF Eligibility Confirmation document based on receipt of e-mail from DWP district contact and conversation held with the individual.  The Provider fulfils the role of the EF Referring Organisation in place of DWP.  The signatures of the EF Referring organisation and the Participant are required for which interim measures have been introduced as detailed on the Meetings & Signatures and E-mail confirmation sections.
  • Provider does not  arrange Pre - Entry interview with DWP
  • Provider completes Appendix 5 - Start/Leaver Notification (SLN) by e-mail and sends to local Jobcentre
  • Provider retains hard copy of email and SLN on file

As from Monday 6 July 2020, an individual who was shielding and now wishes to re-enter EF does not have to satisfy the 13 week unemployed eligibility criteria to re-enter EF. EF Providers should follow the DWP interim referral process above to request confirmation of individual EF eligibility and highlight in the email that this request requires “COVID 19 Eligibility relaxation”.

As from Monday 5 October 2020, an individual who has accepted voluntary redundancy from their employer since 1 March 2020 is eligible for early entry to the EF using the “redundancy” criteria.

DWP Referrals for the civil service

As from Friday 4 September 2020 the following process has been agreed with DWP:

  • Provider point of contact will receive a telephone call from JCP Work Coach.
  • Work Coach will confirm eligibility of individual, IT status, and share name and contact details with Provider
  • Provider contacts the individual to confirm suitability, explain sbwa and confirm start date
  • Provider completes EFEC and signature process as set out in existing COVID-19 interim measures.

 

EF Stage 4 and NTTF travel and accommodation

Due to COVID-19 interim measures will apply to all Stage 4 including NTTF participants and until no later than 31st March 2021 or earlier date confirmed by SDS.

Providers should follow the guidance issued by the Scottish Government for the community learning and development sector (CLD). If Participants are travelling outwith their LEP area to complete their ITP, Providers must have explored all alternative delivery options and recorded the rationale for the travel as part of the ITP. A risk assessment must be completed by the Provider to ensure the Participant is aware of the measures they must take to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID 19. This risk assessment must be stored with the ITP and made available to SDS on request.

Travel

Participants will be expected to contribute no more than the first £3 per week towards their own travel expenses. Any claims made to SDS must not include the £3 paid by the participant. Claims should only be made where excessive travel is required due to no local provision being available and outwith the current EF rule 7.5.1 - the provider shall pay to each participant, the participant’s reasonable travel costs.

The provider must seek the most cost effective travel and accommodation costs.

Air travel would be by exception and only if no alternative or cheaper option is available.

  • Ferry fares – full cost of ferry fare (Note: island residents are entitled to concessionary rates)
  • Air fares – full cost of air fare (note: air travel only to be used if no alternative option such as ferry travel is available for those travelling from islands to the mainland or island to island)
  • Train fares – full cost of standard train fare
  • Bus fare – full cost of bus fare
  • Taxi – only in exceptional circumstances and which require to be detailed when making claims
  • Car travel - mileage 22p per mile. Note: Where there is no or limited access to public transport or timetabling would require an overnight stay or journey times are reduced; car travel is permitted. If the cost of using public transport for the journey is less than mileage; payment will be restricted to the lesser amount. You must cost these options. If more than one participant is travelling in the car only the car owner is eligible to make a claim.

Those that are eligible from being under threat of redundancy will not attract travel or lodgings support as they are still employed.

Accommodation

Under exceptional circumstances where training cannot be sourced within a daily commute location, lodgings will be supported by SDS.

The contribution towards overnight accommodation will be as follows:

  • SDS contribution will be up to a maximum of £65 per night.
  • If nightly accommodation is secured for less than the minimum rates then the actual cost should be claimed. Example –nightly cost is £30 then £30 only can be claimed.

NOTE: COVID:19 – please be aware of and follow the current UK and Scottish government guidelines issued regarding travel and staying away from home.

Funding and evidence requirements

You will be allocated a sum of funds in addition to existing contracts that allows you to make claims against agreed eligibility as outlined above.

You must retain evidence of costs to be reimbursed – i.e. copy of travel costs (tickets, receipts) along with accommodation costs (hotel, B&B invoices and receipts) clearly showing the date of the journey or accommodation.

You must make claims through FIPS for reimbursement within two financial periods of the actual journey or accommodation being taken.

Claims should be made through the Bulk Expense and Expense Claims area within FIPS and using the Travel & Lodging Claim Form. Further guidance on the process is set out within the Travel & Lodging Claim Form which is available on request from efcontracts@sds.co.uk

Any questions, please contact efcontracts@sds.co.uk in the first instance.

Work Experience 

SDS have relaxed the mandatory requirement for work experience at Stage 2 and 3 and are currently reviewing the impact on the delivery of the Certificate of Work Readiness at Stage 3.  

EF Outcomes 

Job or sustained job outcome evidence for participants who are employed but in furlough: For the purposes of claiming a job or sustained job outcome, a participant who is employed but in furlough is deemed as in employment and the evidence requirements for a job or sustained job remain as outlined in the Employability Fund Programme Rules 2020-21.  If the Provider is unable to obtain the Employers signature on Appendix 11 (or Appendix 12 in the case of a sustained outcome) then the EF Rules for alternative evidence in place of the Employer signature still stand.  Further information may be requested by SDS to support the claim if required on a case by case basis.  

Outcome evidence timescales: If the Provider is unable to meet the outcome evidence timescales as outlined in the Employability Fund Programme Rules 2020-21 due to COVID -19, the Provider should contact their SIA to discuss.

 

 

Duration of Training/Allowances 

SDS has been in discussion with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Scottish Government (SG) regarding benefit and allowance support for Employability Fund (EF) participants. The latest guidance is: 

  • Eligible EF participants who are continuing in learning can continue to receive Young Person’s Allowance (YPA). Those who are past their expected end-dates should be updated as a leaver on FIPS. In order to extend participant end-dates on FIPS, you are required to have a robust rationale and agreement in advance from your SIA by email. It is anticipated that any extensions are by exception only. Providers who are no longer offering EF services must ensure that all EF participants in receipt of YPA are processed as leavers on FIPS.  

As from Monday 6 July 2020, DWP has confirmed the following:

  • EF Providers who have EF participants in receipt of benefit who no longer wish to participate in EF or are unable to participate in EF due to Scottish Government Shielding Guidance can update these participants as leavers on FIPS and refer them back to DWP by completing the Start/leaver Notification document with the actual leaving date and sending it to the JCP office that made the original referral. 
  • EF Participants in receipt of benefit who had their expected end date extended to 30 September can extend this further if required by sending a Change of Circumstance form to the JCP office that made the original referral with the revised expected end date and note indicating  “COVID 19 relaxation applied”.
  • The 30 September 2020 expected end date no longer applies to new starts on EF.  EF providers should now complete the expected end date as normal.

Face-to-face meetings and signature requirements for documentation  

If Providers are unable to conduct meetings with Participants and/or Employers face-to face due to the Coronavirus pandemic, SDS will relax the EF Rules to allow these meetings via video conferencing/Skype/Facetime or telephone, without seeking prior approval. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the following requirements for signatures will apply:     

For signatures, Providers should, where their technology allows, follow the guidance in the statement below:    

Due to COVID-19 you can use electronic signatures.  

Any signature must be inputted by the person it represents and used where there is knowledge of and an intent to sign a specific document. The signature should be representative of their handwritten signature. 

Copies (including scanned copies) of the original document or form with the required signatures are acceptable for payment assurance purposes.    

For the avoidance of doubt, SDS will not accept a typed signature in any font. 

If Providers are unable to gain signatures in this way (including electronic signatures) due to COVID-19, they should then follow the guidance below:    

The Provider must send an email to the Participant with the relevant E-Mail Confirmation Statement (see next tab) and the document attached or inserted to the email.

The provider can send all relevant documents and email confirmations statements within the one email.
There must be prior contact with both parties to collect the information to enable the documentation to be fully completed.

This sent email acts as the Providers signature for the named document(s).
The Participant must then positively respond to the email to confirm they have read, understood and contributed as appropriate to each named document. This email acts as the Participant signature and must be retained with the named document as evidence.

E-mail confirmation statements for EF Documentation 

As outlined in the Meetings & Signatures section, where Providers are unable to get the required signatures, they can use e-mail correspondence. In this case, Providers are required to use the following statements for each document:    

EF Eligibility Confirmation 20/21 (Appendix 2) where the EF Provider is the EF referring organisation and the Participant is not in receipt of DWP benefits 
Required signatures: Participant and EF Referring Organisation signature   

Description: This email contains the EF Eligibility Confirmation for the Employability Fund. If you respond positively to this email you confirm that you have been referred to the Employability Fund with the support of your referring organisation and that you have read and understood the eligibility confirmation form.  

EF Training Agreement 20/21   
Required signatures: Participant and EF Provider signature    

Description: This email contains the Training Agreement for the Employability Fund. If you respond positively to this email, you confirm that you will undertake the Employability Fund with the support of your Provider and that you have read and understood the agreement.     

Equalities Monitoring Form 20/21 (Appendix 7)  
Required signatures: Participant signature   

Description: This email contains the Equalities Monitoring Form. If you respond positively to this email you confirm that you have read and completed this and understand that for equality monitoring purposes, the Provider will input the information to an SDS system and then destroy the hard copy of the form.    Your data will be held securely and confidentially, and will only be used for reporting purposes, further information can be found in the SDS Privacy Notice.

Individual Training Plan (ITP) 20/21 (Appendix 3)  
Required signatures: Participant and EF Provider signature    

Description: This email contains an ITP for the Employability Fund. If you respond positively to this email, you confirm that you have agreed the content (either at the start of training, review or completion of training) of the ITP with the support of your Provider and that you have read and understood the ITP.   

Start/Leaver Notification and Change of Circumstance Form 20/21 (Appendix 5 and 6)  
Required signatures: Participant and EF Provider signature    

These documents are specifically designed to update the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).  As DWP have agreed an extension of Employability Fund for all their referrals there is no requirement to complete a Change of Circumstance form to extend the expected end date to 30 September 2020.  For all other purposes the Start/Leaver notification and Change of Circumstance forms must be completed as outlined in the EF Rules 20-21, emailed to the local Jobcentre and copied to the DWP District Contact.  

Progression from EF to MA 20/21 (Appendix 10)   
Required signatures: Participant MA Provider Signature and EF Providersignature    

Description: This email contains the Progression from EF to MA declaration form for the Employability Fund. If you respond positively to this email, you confirm that you have progressed to a MA and that you have read and agree with the Progression from EF to MA declaration form.   

Progression from EF to a Job or Self-employment 20/21 (Appendix 11)   
Required signatures: Participant, Employer and EF Provider signature    

Description: This email contains the Progression from EF to a job or self-employment declaration form for the Employability Fund. If you respond positively to this email, you confirm that you have progressed to a job or self-employment and that you have read and agree with the Progression from EF to job or self-employment declaration form.   

Progression from EF to a Sustained Job or Self-employment 20/21 (Appendix 12)   
Required signatures: Participant, Employer and EF Provider signature    

Description: This email contains the Progression from EF to a sustained job or self-employment declaration form for the Employability Fund. If you respond positively to this email, you confirm that you have progressed to a sustained job or self-employment and that you have read and agree with the Progression from EF to a sustained job or self-employment declaration form.   

Next Steps   

If you have any questions or issues not addressed by the guidance above, please contact your SIA in the first instance.    

We continue to liaise with the Scottish Training Federation and the Scottish Government on measures to support contract holders through this uncertain period. 

We urge you to follow the Scottish Government’s latest information and advice on Coronavirus at gov.scot/coronavirus. Public health advice can be found at: Coronavirus (COVID-19) on NHS Inform.