Safeguarding learning – dealing with fraud and malpractice

Safeguarding learningAs part of an ongoing series, HABC Strategic Director Chris Daniel looks at the various issues affecting the training sector, helping you to make sense of the numerous rules and regulations whilst providing tips and guidance.

In this article, Chris looks at the issue of fraud and malpractice, and how Awarding Organisations such as HABC safeguard learning and qualifications.

You may well have seen the recent BBC Inside Out programme regarding fraud and malpractice within the private security industry. The programme highlights some of the issues and practices of unscrupulous centres whose understanding or implementation of requirements is sacrificed for short-term gain.

HABC has always stated our upmost commitment towards preventing, finding and dealing with malpractice or fraud. Our strategy has always been to eradicate these practices in order to secure a long-term confidence in the qualifications that we offer. To achieve this, HABC has the most rigorous and stringent risk-management safeguards in place. Our objective for these safeguards is to protect the interests of learners and the validity and integrity of all of our qualifications.

HABC has one of the largest quality assurance department’s of all approved Awarding Organisations in relation to the number of qualifications awarded. The teams in the department work tirelessly to prevent malpractice and conduct thorough investigations if we have the slightest suspicion a misdemeanour has been committed. A good example of how this works in practice can be demonstrated by the fact that warning generators created by HABC’s system previously alerted us to one of the centres referred to in the BBC investigation featured on the Inside-Out programme. This led to HABC refusing an application for centre approval from this organisation in 2013.

HABC does not rest on its laurels, and are well aware that the potential for fraud and malpractice can never be entirely eliminated. To address this issue, HABC has many comprehensive and robust procedures and processes in place to help prevent, identify and address these serious concerns above and beyond those undertaken by some other Awarding Organisations approved to award licence-linked security qualifications. These include having a separate approval process for tutors, placing undercover mystery shoppers on full courses, undertaking regular unannounced audits and operating a policy that every single piece of assessment documentation is scrutinised via a 10-stage checking process.

With our strategy and commitment towards world-class customer service, HABC’s approach towards malpractice is one of honesty and transparency. We realise that sometimes issues can arise in centres. In these instances we will work alongside a centre to correct these issues. However, centres cannot become complacent because a zero-tolerance policy is applied if HABC find evidence of deliberate or sustained malpractice. Be assured, centre and/or tutor approval will be removed from guilty parties along with the matter being reported to relevant authorities and Awarding Organisations. If evidence of criminal activity is found this will also be reported to the police.

HABC is regularly inspected and audited by the relevant regulators and the feedback is consistently that HABC’s practices, policies and procedures in place are extremely strong and adhere to regulatory requirements. Additionally, we are often approached for guidance in dealing with matters involving malpractice and fraud. HABC has also given formal presentations setting out our robust approach to other Awarding Organisations operating in the security sector and to our regulators.

So in summary, HABC will not hesitate to take action against any centre or person found to be actively involved in malpractice or fraud, and has done so on numerous occasions in the past. When this has happened we ensure that we inform our regulators and other Awarding Organisations in accordance with our regulatory requirements. Our zero-tolerance approach also dictates that we will not approve any company or person known to have a history of malpractice/fraud.

If you have any questions or issues you would like addressed by Chris, please leave a response in the comments section and we’ll contact you directly.

Keeping onside with the regulators – the dos and don’ts of marketing

approved centre statusOver the forthcoming months, HABC Strategic Director Chris Daniel will guide you through the various issues affecting the training sector, helping you to make sense of the numerous rules and regulations whilst providing tips and guidance on how to make the most of your Approved Centre status.

In this article, Chris looks at how to stay compliant with Ofqual in your marketing, and the ins and outs of qualification regulation across the UK.

Do not fall into the trap of misleading marketing
‘The training world has always been very competitive. As a HABC Approved Centre we know that you are always seeking to gain a competitive advantage over other providers. We also understand the importance of securing business in order to survive and we see it as part of our role to assist you with this. As such, it is important that information given to potential clients and learners is accurate and not misleading.

When creating your marketing material and information relating to HABC qualifications regulated by the qualification regulators (CCEA, Ofqual, SQA or Welsh Government), your account manager will be able to assist you with the appropriate wording. It is important that the message given is accurate.

HABC is regulated by the qualification regulators and this allows us to design, deliver and award qualifications. Regulated qualifications are available from HABC (through an approval mechanism) to Centres, who can then offer training courses to clients that can enable a learner to satisfactorily meet the qualification assessment requirements of the qualification. It is important that this message is made clear. Unfortunately, we have come across some messages inferring that courses are approved by qualification regulators. This is not true and, if found, the qualification regulators may take action directly against the Centre if its advertising is deemed to mislead learners.

Courses offered by your Centre may well lead to a regulated qualification which sits on a recognised qualification framework, for example the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) in England and Wales, or the Scottish Credit Qualification Framework (SCQF) in Scotland. Centres need to be careful to not imply that their courses are ‘QCF/SCQF courses’ or ‘QCF/SCQF approved’.

HABC Approved Centres are encouraged to use the HABC Approved Centre logo subject to the requirements of the HABC – Use of Logo Policy. However, under no circumstances are Centres able to use the logos of any of the qualification regulators as this is strictly prohibited’.

Further advice and information can be provided by your account manager. It can also be found in an email communication from Terry Bloor, HABC’s Quality Assurance Manager, which was sent to your Centre in January’.

Over the next 12 months it is our intention to provide more detail about the way qualifications are regulated throughout the UK. We also hope to introduce a regulatory type surgery where if you have approved centre status you can ask questions relating to qualification regulation, and we’ll publish the answers in the newsletter. If you have any questions, please contact Mark Phillips, Communications Manager, at mphillips@highfieldabc.com

Qualification regulation and why it matters

Chris DanielMaking sense of qualification regulation can be a bit of a headache. That’s why –  as part of a number of forthcoming articles on regulations and compliance – HABC Strategic Development Director Chris Daniel  takes you through the who, what, why and how.

Who?
There are four main regulatory bodies in the UK who recognise awarding organisations and their qualifications:

What?
There are many qualifications offered across the UK which are regulated. These are also known as ‘regulated qualifications′. All awarding bodies that offer regulated qualifications must be ‘recognised’ by the qualifications regulator for each country in the UK. HABC has been recognised by the regulators since 2008. Regulated qualifications are those that are reviewed, recognised and monitored by the regulatory bodies in order to make sure that they meet specific criteria and quality standards. The requirements for the qualifications to be regulated are set out in the regulatory arrangements for the respective countries.

Why?
The most obvious advantage of regulated over non-regulated qualifications is that the regulated ones provide the learners and stakeholders with a guarantee of quality, of both the qualification programme and the awarding body that offers regulated qualifications. Non-regulated qualifications, on the other hand, are not regulated and there is no guarantee that they meet appropriate standards. There is no way to tell whether they are fit for their purpose, if they include relevant content or if appropriate methodology for assessment is used.

How?
The regulators use several methods to ensure a high quality of regulated qualifications. In order to be recognised and have our qualifications regulated by the regulators, we have to submit our proposition to the regulator which then carefully reviews the proposed qualification. If the qualification programme meets the regulator’s criteria it is recognised. If it does not meet the set criteria, it is rejected. In order to make sure that the regulated qualifications maintain appropriate standards and quality, they are kept under review by the regulators, who also have the power to withdraw accreditation’.

Over the next 12 months it is our intention to provide more detail about the way qualifications are regulated throughout the UK. We also hope to introduce a regulatory type surgery where you can ask questions relating to qualification regulation, and we’ll publish the answers in the newsletter. If you have any questions, please contact Mark Phillips, Communications Manager, at mphillips@highfieldabc.com

Changes to magistrates’ courts fines

NabarroChanges to the legal system can have a dramatic impact on the way you do business. Whether it’s to do with the overall compliance of your organisation, the impact on staff or customers, or the cost and impact any changes may have, it’s vital you stay up to date with what’s happening.

One recent change has been the removal by the government of the £50,000 upper limit on fines that can be imposed by magistrates’ courts. We asked top legal firm, Nabarro LLP, who supply HABC Approved Centres with a regular health and safety law update, to explain more.

‘The Government has recently announced that it will remove the £5,000 upper limit on fines imposed in the magistrates’ courts. It is the government’s view that financial penalties, set at a level without the current maximums, are an effective way of deterring and punishing crime. One of the aims of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (the Act) is to remove elements of the law that fetter the courts’ ability to make a decision over sentencing. This increase is the first made since 1991 and is provided for in the Act.

When the changes come into play, they will apply across all business sectors and will affect a very wide range of legislation, including commercial, company, financial services, competition, property, health and safety, and environmental laws. Companies and their directors may have to reconsider their approach to any offences which up until now may have been treated as relatively minor because of the low fines involved.

Recent developments
Gavel by Salvatore VuonoThe Act received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012 and was primarily introduced to deal with the reform of civil litigation costs and funding. It allows for a certain degree of adjustment in relation to existing legislation. Under the sections pending commencement, the Secretary of State will also be granted various powers to:

  • Disapply the new provisions;
  • Create new caps;
  • Increase fixed fines; and
  • Increase fines currently defined with reference to the standard scale.

In accordance with these powers, two statutory instruments were published in draft form on 10 June 2014. These draft pieces of subordinate legislation and the relevant provisions of the Act are intended to come into force at the same time.

The draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Disapplication of Section 85(1), Fines Expressed as Proportions and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2014 disapplies the Act’s provision permitting an unlimited level of fine and provides alternative provisions for a specified list of legislation. The Regulation also states how penalties that are expressed as proportions of amounts of £5,000 or more will be treated under the new regime.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 and Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 are not excluded under this Regulation, so, as it stands currently, magistrates will have the power to impose unlimited fines once the Act comes into force.

The draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Standard Scale of Fines for Summary Offences) Order 2014 will amend section 37(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 to increase the maximum fines on levels 1 to 4 on the standard scale by 400 per cent.

Aims and impact
Golden Scales Of Justice by KittisakThe maximum fines currently available to magistrates depend on the seriousness of the offence committed. In general, the penalty for offences committed under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 or the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 are currently up to £50,000, £20,000 or £5,000 in the magistrates’ court. In the Crown Court, fines can be unlimited. In relation to some of these offences, the magistrates’ court also has the power to impose a prison sentence of a maximum term of six months, or longer in the Crown Court.

In the paper released by the Ministry of Justice, Increasing the Magistrates’ Court fine limit – Equality Impact Assessment, it is noted that one per cent of all fines in the magistrates’ court, and around 60 per cent of all fines of £5,000 or over, are issued to organisations. It is suggested that the rule changes mean that organisations will be differentially affected relative to individuals. The new Act will permit magistrates to impose larger fines and to deal with more cases themselves, without incurring the time and monetary costs of committal to the Crown Court’.

Nabbaro will be contributing a speaker to the HABC National Conference at Old Trafford, Manchester in November on the subject of health and safety. For more information, click here.

Happy 40th birthday Health and Safety at Work Act

WendyNixonJuly 2014 saw the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. Our health and safety consultant, Wendy Nixon, takes a look at the impact this important –and sometimes controversial – legislation has had since its introduction in 1974.

Many of us are guilty of labelling health and safety as ‘kill-joy legislation’ and we have all laughed at articles which have quoted incidents where the legislation has been misinterpreted or misunderstood… children not allowed to play conkers, cafes not allowed to serve hot drinks and retail premises not allowing customers to use their toilets!

Health and safety gone mad…..or has it?

As 2014 sees us celebrate 40 years of the Health and Safety at Work Act, we should all take time to reflect on what is arguably the most effective piece of legislation on the statute books.
Let’s look how far we have come.

Before 1974 we had a host of regulations which swamped some industries with rules and regulations whilst allowing others to go relatively uncontrolled. The Health and Safety at Work Act was implemented as a conclusion of Lord Robens report which concluded there were too many regulations and that what was needed was a regulatory regime that set broad, non-prescriptive goals for duty holders, underpinned by a fundamental principle: ‘those that create risk are best placed to manage it’.

The Act that emerged from his review swept away detailed and prescriptive industry regulations. It created a flexible system where regulations describe goals and principles, supported by codes of practice and guidance. Based on consultation and engagement, the new regime was designed to deliver a proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach.

Since 1974 the Health and Safety at Work Act has protected millions of British workers, and driven sharp reductions in incidents of occupational death, serious injury and ill health. In 1974, fatalities to employees (covered by the legislation in place then) stood at 651. The latest figure for 2013/14 is down to 133, whilst non-fatal injuries have dropped by more than 75 percent.

Recent developments
More recent reviews have continued in this vain. The review of health and safety by Professor Loftstedt in 2011 and his subsequent report, Reclaiming health and safety for all, saw further streamlining of current legislation, and the current reform agenda is aimed at stripping out unnecessary or duplicated regulation and helping smaller businesses to understand how to take a proportionate approach to managing their risks – but the basic principles remain the same.

More recently the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has implemented a Myth Busters Challenge Panel aimed at investigating complaints regarding health and safety and advice provided by non regulators, providing simplified guidance and consulting with industry to clarify interpretation and implementation.

Today we face changes in our environment and technology, which ultimately impacts on new and changing workplaces, presenting new hazards and risks. We must continually be on the lookout for emerging hazardous chemicals, new fibres behaving similarly to asbestos and carcinogens presented by the way we work and live.

The future for health and safety
The focus for the immediate future is likely to be on health matters, bringing the concept of health and safety into the real world and educating children and young people on hazards and risks.

It is becoming more difficult to segregate risks in the workplace and those at home, for example people working in office environments are now sitting for longer in front of screens, whilst our lifestyles also dictate similar activities, increasing the risks of musculoskeletal disorders, repetitive strains, stress and other health issues.

Overall, the changes in the last 40 years are quite remarkable, but there will always be room for improvement. We must strive for a change in attitude to health and safety, seeing it no longer as a joke or burden on society, but more a personal responsibility. We all expect to leave work and go home safely, yet this will not happen unless we continue to do our bit to make it happen.

133 fatalities is still too many, especially when you imagine this could be you or your loved one.
Take responsibility and make a difference.

Here’s to the next 40 years of safe and healthy workplaces.