THE C of E’s bid to use the new apprenticeship tax to fund curacy training has moved a step closer to reality after the proposal was approved by the Government.
The Department of Education has given its backing in principle to the idea of using the funds from the apprenticeship levy, which was announced in 2015 and came into force this month, in curacy training.
Now, the Church is consulting with dioceses and other partners to gauge support for the scheme. If the consultation is successful, the project could begin in 12 months’ time.
A spokesman for the C of E said: “We are currently consulting with various stakeholders, on an ecumenical basis, regarding what form the training would take.”
The Government has told the Church that it would need to enter into partnerships with other denominations to use the funds for the training of curates. Normally, at least ten employers must be involved for a scheme to qualify, although officials have recognised that Churches are a special case.
All employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million must start paying the new tax, a threshold that does not include most dioceses and other church bodies, but does include the Church Commissioners and other national church institutions that run the central stipend system.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, told the House of Commons last week that the Church viewed the apprenticeship levy funds as one way of trying to meet its new target, under Renewal and Reform, of increasing ordinations by 50 per cent.
“Quite simply, we need to make it easier for people who feel the call to enter ministry to do so more flexibly,” Dame Caroline said. “The Church offers not only a three-year residential course to become an ordained minister, but part-time peripatetic provision. . .
“Resources will be available to the Church for people to learn on the job. That should make it a whole lot easier for people to enter ministry.”
If the scheme goes ahead, the new funds would not be used to cover curates’ stipends, but to fund additional training. Other church workers in training, such as youth pastors or administrative staff, could also be funded through the levy, working in partnership with other Churches.
The Commissioners do not envisage apprenticeships as becoming the standard way for curacy training to be organised or funded, but hope to set it up as an option for any dioceses that wish to use it. But it is understood, that eventually up to 300 assistant curates could be enrolled into the apprenticeship scheme; there are currently about 500.