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Guidance on raising concerns about adult education funding

Raising concerns about adult education funding

This guide sets out

  • how to report allegations about suspected fraud or financial irregularity to the GLA
  • the types of allegation the GLA will consider
  • how the GLA handles confidential and anonymous allegations
  • how the GLA handles reported allegations
  • how allegations made by whistleblowers are protected

Reporting and investigating instances of fraud and corruption

The GLA's role is to confirm

  • if allegations or information from any source indicates financial irregularity
  • if a GLA funded education provider has broken the funding rules

The GLA will consider and determine appropriate action when we receive allegations of suspected fraud and/or financial irregularity, including;

  • a funded provider (e.g. college or training provider) has claimed funding from the GLA through deception
  • a funded provider has broken the funding rules
  • a funded provider has not delivered education and/ or training funded by the GLA
  • corruption and bribery - for example, in relation to sub-contracting
    • corruption is the offering, promising, giving, requesting, receiving or agreeing to accept an inducement or reward (i.e. a bribe), which may influence a person to act against the interest of the GLA.  The definition of what constitutes a bribe is broad and covers any financial or other advantage offered to someone to induce them to act improperly.  The Bribery Act 2010 creates offences of;
      • offering, promising or giving a bribe  (active bribery)
      • requesting, receiving or agreeing to accept a bribe (passive bribery)
    • the Act also creates an offence of commercial organisations (applicable to both private and public organisation) failing to prevent persons associated with them (including third party providers) from bribing another person on their behalf.  The organisation will have defence if it can show that it had adequate procedures in place to prevent persons associated with it from committing bribery. 

The GLA will not usually consider concerns about;

  • the quality of education or leadership, or concerns affecting the organisation, which are addressed through OFSTED inspections (unless these concerns link to a suspected fraud or financial irregularity)
  • discrimination; you can raise complaints about this with Equality Advisory Support Service data protection. Data protection; you can raise complaints about this with the Information Commissioner's Office
  • exam malpractice or maladministration; any complaints should be raised with Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) or the relevant awarding body
  • child protection (safeguarding); issues should be raised with your local authority designated officer (LADO) and/ or the Director of Children's Services using the report child abuse to [local council].gov.uk page
  • concerns relating to employment and/ or contracts of employment of individual staff should be directed to the individual's employer 
  • contractual disputes between employees and employers, and complaints about managers, including bullying and harassment, should be directed to the employer

The above list are not exhaustive.  Where appropriate, the GLA will share your allegation with other government departments and organisations that may have an interest, or hold jurisdiction over specific funding streams

How to report allegations of suspected fraud or financial irregularity

Before raising a concern with the GLA you must have a reasonable belief that the disclosure is true

For allegations relating to colleges and training organisations, please email [email protected]

You can also telephone on (020) 7084 2590 or 7983 4475

or contact the Audit Lead by post at;

GLA Adult Education Budget, Skills and Employment unit, 169 Union Street, London SE1 0LL

Confidentiality and anonymous allegations

It is helpful if you are able to provide your name and contact details as it is difficult to investigate matters where we are unable to contact you for further information.  However, we understand that you may not feel comfortable doing this.  Unless we receive a sufficient amount of information and/or evidence to proceed with an investigation, we may not be able to act on anonymous allegations.

If you raise an allegation we will not disclose your identify without your consent, unless this is required for legal reasons.  In some circumstances it may not be possible to act upon your concerns without disclosing your identity.  We will always seek your consent before disclosing information to a third party if you previously requested that your identity is not disclosed. 

If you do not wish to provide this consent, we may not be able to investigate your allegations properly, or at all.

Whistleblowers

A whistleblower is someone who works at an organisation or is involved in governing it, and reports certain types of wrongdoing.  This will usually be something you've seen at the organisation - though not always.

Whistleblowing relates to making disclosures about wrongdoing in the public interest.  This means things that affect others; for example, the general public. 

As a whistleblower you're protected by the law.  That means you won't suffer a detriment - for example, lose your job or be disadvantaged at work - if you report something

You can raise your concern at any time about an incident that happened in the past, is happening now, or you belive will happen in the near future.  However, the sooner you raise your concern, the better the chance of addressing it. 

Action GLA takes when receiving an allegation

Where you have provided contact details, we will acknowledge your allegation.  We may also seek further information from you at this stage.  This plan sets out the steps the GLA will take when fraud corruption and related wrongdoings are reported to;

  • investigate the incident;
  • document, secure and retain evidence;
  • analyse and evaluate evidence;
  • document findings and conclusions;
  • secure evidence for any civil or criminal action;
  • carry out a post investigation review to identify underlying fraud risks, trends and other system and supervisory weaknesses.  Value for money and organisational learning considerations are also assessed to prevent any further loss in the immediate future
  • ensure processes are strengthened to prevent recurrences of similar wrongdoing.

If we cannot handle your allegations, we may refer them to another body.  We cannot commit to notifying you of the outcome of any action we may take. 

Complain about your education provider

Guidance for learner complaints

This procedure is for:

  • learners
  • parents
  • authorised representatives of the learners
  • employers

It sets out when and how to complain about post 19 training and education providers where the course in question is funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA)

The training and education providers covered by the GLA procedure are:

  • general further education (FE) colleges;
  • independent training providers;
  • independent specialist providers;
  • local authorities;
  • institutes for adult learning;
  • sixth form colleges and
  • providers of college education

Your education provider will have policies in relation to safeguarding, prevent and whistleblowing, as well as policies available to raise complaints.  Please tell your tutor, or a member of the faculty in the first instance - your provider may be able to solve your problem.  If you do not have the complaints procedure, ask the human resources team or people manager at your education provider for a copy.  The complaints procedure should tell you:

  • what you need to send to make your complaint, for example a completed form or written evidence
  • where to send your complaint
  • how the organisation will treat your complaint, for example who will see it and possible outcomes
  • when you expect a decision

If you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you can refer the complaint to the GLA.

What the GLA can investigate

We can only consider complaints on behalf of learners whose courses we fund

We cannot re-investigate a complaint you have made to the organisations.  We can review whether the organisation has investigated your original complaint in line with their procedure.

We can only investigate if you have exhausted the organisation's own complaints procedure, including any appeal.

We can investigate complaints about the organisations we fund in relation to:

  • the quality, management or experience of education and training
  • undue delay or non-compliance with their published complaints procedures
  • poor administration
  • the quality of assessments for example, how an assessment or an end point assessment has been done (excluding outcomes)
  • equality and diversity (except where there is a more appropriate mechanism for dealing with the matter, for example through the court, tribunals or other organisations)

How to complain to the GLA

We only accept complaints in writing by email or letter, except where we are required to make reasonable adjustments.  Please let us know if this applies to you, either through a third party or by calling us, and we will arrange for someone to handle your complaint accordingly.

If you have difficulties in providing details in writing, we will consider complaints made on your behalf by a third party.  You will need to confirm that we can communicate with that third party on your behalf.  If the complaint is on behalf of more than one person, we will need written permission from everyone.

You must contact the GLA within 12 months after the issue happened.  Email or post your complaint to the GLA Skills and Employment unit:

[email protected] 

Provider complaints, Skills and Employment unit, Greater London Authority, 169 Union Street, London SE1 0LL.

When you contact us about your complaint, you will need to provide us with the following:

  • the name of the organisation you are complaining about
  • details of what your complaint is, together with the relevant documents
  • evidence that you have fully exhausted the organisation's complaints procedure including, any appeals process (for example written correspondence confirming the outcome)
  • permission to disclose details of you complaint to the organisation concerned
  • if you are acting on behalf of a learner, evidence that you have their permission to do so

We can only investigate on behalf of learners whose courses we fund.  We may ask you for further information to help us confirm this.  

What happens next?

On receipt of you complaint we will check:

  • if we fund the course/ organisation
  • if it falls into on of the categories we can investigate 
  • if the original decision or action complained about occurred more than 12 months ago
  • whether you have exhausted the organisation's complaints procedure including any appeals process

We will acknowledge receipt and send a copy of this procedure.  We will also inform you of whether the complaint is one that we can investigate.  If we cannot investigate your complaint, we may also signpost you to another organisation that may be able to help you.

We will appoint an officer with appropriate knowledge and expertise to investigate your complaint. 

If we can investigate we will email a summary of the complaint to you.  In some complex cases we will request that you agree to the summary.  Where this happens you will have five working days to respond to us. 

Within ten working days of agreeing a summary we will send the information that you have provided along with a summary of the complaint to the provider.  We will then ask the organisation to share with us:

  • details and copies of the relevant procedure
  • confirmation that their procedures have been exhausted
  • a response to the summary of complaint together with relevant documents
  • confirmation that we can share the information provided with the complainant

If the organisation's procedures have not been exhausted, we will let you know that we will not investigate the matter further until that has happened.  If we decide the organisation has unduly delayed resolving the complaint, or will not resolve the complaint within a reasonable timeframe, we may continue to investigate.  If we determine that you are self-funded we will write to you to say that we cannot investigate the matter further.  

If we need more information we may contact those involved to get further information or evidence.  

We aim to finalise the findings within 25 working days of your complaint summary being agreed.  We will notify you of the outcome and our findings and that will conclude the investigation.

If at any point during the investigation we encounter a delay in responding to or providing correspondence, we will notify you of the delay and provide details of when you can expect a response.  

This procedure does not cover the following:

  • complaints concerning a provider in relation to courses which are not funded by the GLA contract such as adult learner loans, should be directed to the Education and Skills Funding Agency 
  • complaints concerning higher education (HE) courses in FE colleges, which you should direct to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HE 
  • complaints concerning higher education institutions (HEIs) or universities, which you should direct to Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HE  
  • organisations that we do not contract with directly, including those who are delivering for another organisation that we do fund
  • learners who are self-funded
  • allegations of misuse of public funds or financial irregularity which we pass to our allegations team
  • awarding bodies or awarding body documentation and or text books; you should direct to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)
  • complaints about inspections by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), which you should direct to Ofsted

We cannot help with complaints about

  • issues with a provider who does not have a contract with the GLA
  • issues that are more thank 12 months old
  • examination results, grades, marks assessment outcomes or curriculum content
  • employment issues including potential employment (such as recruitment) with colleges, providers and employers; this includes employment concerns for an apprenticeship or a member of the college's staff
  • governor or other voluntary employment issues at colleges and providers
  • contractual or commercial disputes or arrangements between a provider and a party providing services to the provider or someone who is not a learner
  • disputes between an employer and a provider in relation to the apprenticeship levy
  • matters that are the subject of legal action
  • matters that are better investigated by the police (we will assess this on a case by case basis and will explain our decision to you)
  • claims for compensation, a refund of fees or costs incurred when a learner must transfer to another provider
  • issues we have classified as serial (if this is the case we will have informed you of this) allegations of fraud, financial irregularity, whistleblowing and allegations of incentives or inducements from either providers; in the case of transfers between two employers these should be directed to the Allegations team via email to [email protected]
  • safeguarding concerns and complaints about the prevention of extremism and radicalisation, which are not covered by the complaints procedure but we will pass these onto the appropriate team within the GLA who will contact the provider.  We may also contact other organisation such as Ofsted and local authorities

What action the GLA will take

The organisations we fund are independent bodies and GLA has limited powe to intervene in their day-to-day running.  GLA's role is to ensure they have acted according to their complaints procedures.

If your complaint is uphold we consider action against the organisation, such as:

  • asking them to review their complaints procedure to ensure non-recurrence
  • asking them to review their handling of your case

Working with other teams, agencies (such as Ofsted or the ESFA) and/or intelligence we may consider:

  • whether  we continue to fund the organisation
  • invoking clauses from the funding agreements, financial memoranda and/ or contracts
  • between GLA and the organisation

If you are unhappy with the GLA response

You can refer the complaint through the GLA complaints policy if you are unhappy with how the GLA has dealt with your complaint

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