FURTHER education has told the Government that it must "piggyback" its new welfare-to-work programme on existing college and sector funding structures or risk wasting public money on bureaucracy.
The Further Education Funding Council is determined that as little as possible of the Pounds 3.5 billion, available over the next four years as part of the ambitious "new deal" scheme for the unemployed, is wasted on more administrative tiers within colleges.
Geoff Daniels, the council's assistant director, said that hard-up colleges would have to absorb another 40,000 full-time students as a result of new deal initiatives. There would also be tens of thousands of students coming to college to study part time. In all, the Government hopes its new deal will remove around 250,000 people from benefit dependency.
Mr Daniels said: "Funding is going to be tight and we are worried colleges could be asked to set up separate systems for recording and bidding. This will mean a lot of cash being diverted into administration. There is a way forward by using the FEFC's funding methodology to translate the Government's wishes. The council could administer funds and monitor students and achievement without additional administrative costs."
Money will follow those people targeted under welfare-to-work. They will be offered four new deal options: taking a private-sector job; working with a voluntary organisation; working with the new environmental taskforce; or entering full-time education. People who reject all four options could have their benefits stopped.
The Government plans to provide colleges with up to Pounds 2,300 for each person studying full time for a year and up to Pounds 750 for each person taking a year's worth of day-release, or other part-time training from their work placements.
Mr Daniels said that the sums were "just about workable" if administration costs were kept to a minimum and colleges retained the freedom to allocate the new deal cash as they saw fit, depending on their relative cost of courses.
The FEFC hopes welfare-to-work students will be able to choose from existing college courses rather than from a limited block of separate provision. Colleges, therefore, should not have to apply for any additional course accreditation. But the council has warned them to avoid a pricing war and competition for welfare-to-work funds.
The Employment Service is coordinating the scheme and will soon call on colleges to join local partnerships with employers, Training and Enterprise Councils, local authorities, the voluntary sector and the careers service.