Theresa May has initiated a significant cabinet reshuffle, just seven months after last year’s General Election. Esther McVey becomes Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. Her immediate predecessor, David Gauke, becomes Secretary of State for Justice. Elsewhere, Damian Hinds replaces Justine Greening as Secretary of State for Education, which includes overall responsibility for skills and apprenticeships.
In many respects the reshuffle is exactly that, with experienced Ministers swapping briefs, rather than any surprise new faces. McVey was a former Minister of State at DWP between 2013 and 2015, so will be familiar with the Department and its policy agenda, and will also be a name familiar to many employability providers. Smoothing the roll out of Universal Credit will likely be her priority. Hinds was formerly the Minister of State for Employment, responsible for the controversial benefit reform. His promotion leaves this position vacant; a key appointment expected to be made by Theresa May later today.
Gauke’s arrival at the Ministry of Justice coincides with the expected and imminent commencement of the new Prison Education Framework procurement, replacing the current Offender Learning & Skills Service (OLASS) provision. This procurement has already experienced several false starts, and it will be interesting to see what bearing Gauke’s arrival may now have on the competition.
Hinds faces similar challenges with his new brief. He arrives whilst the controversy of the recent non-levy apprenticeship round remains fresh. Several high-profile colleges ranked ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted were not awarded new business through this procurement. One provider, Focus Training Group, has successfully appealed against the ESFA’s original score for its bid, which was below the award threshold. This could yet pave the way for more similar appeals.