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Government sacks ‘catastrophic’ grants firm

Friday 21 November 2008NUS News

Schools Minister Jim Knight has confirmed that the company responsible for delays in education maintenance allowance (EMA) payments this year has lost its six-year contract, worth £60 million.

The contract held by Liberata, the outsourcing firm, was scrapped by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), after delays in processing EMA applications which affected more than 200,000 students this year and meant that vital payments were not received. The contract will be taken over by Capita on 28 November.

Clearing the backlog

NUS Vice President for Further Education, Beth Walker, said: “We are pleased that the government has taken heed of students’ concerns over Liberata’s shambolic handling of EMAs. However, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) must continue to work to ensure the remaining backlog is cleared and all back payments are made.

Students may have dropped out

“We fear that many students have been forced to drop out of their courses by the delays and there is an urgent need for the government to conduct a full inquiry into this catastrophic failure, so we can fully understand the how this came to happen, how it has affected learners' participation and to ensure that lessons are learned for the future.”