Brent college chief slams FE cuts

CNWL principal Vicki Fagg says training cuts will encourage welfare dependency

The principal of one of London’s largest further education colleges has called on other colleges to oppose plans to cut funding allowing benefit claimants to train for free.

The government is planning to cut money courses such as basic IT training to those claiming Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance.

However, Vicki Fagg, principal at the College of North West London (CNWL), says the move will raise ‘insurmountable barriers’ for claimants on low incomes trying to improve their prospects, and called for a campaign against the proposals.

Ms Fagg, who oversees training at CNWL, which has campuses in Wembley, Willesden, and Kilburn, said: “With other college principals I will be campaigning to ensure the message gets across before huge damage is done to the supply of skilled labour and the aspirations of thousands of adults in this country.”

Under the proposals, published last month in the government’s Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy, only basic literacy and numeracy courses will remain free for all claimants.

Others wanting to study will have to take out state-sponsored loans. The government claims its proposals will target support for training more effectively.

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Fagg says that removing free training for those on benefits will mean more people remain dependent on state support.

“This will undermine and inhibit colleges across the country that train thousands of people each year in vocational skills, giving them vital passports to better jobs and opportunities and making a real contribution to the country’s prosperity.”

More than 1,000 of those studying at the CNWL come from households dependent on state benefits other than Job Seekers Allowance. The average age of the college’s students is 34.

According to the Office of National Statistics, Brent has one of the lowest rates of people with qualifications among London boroughs. It also has one of the highest rates of people on out of work benefits.