To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the Student Loan Company’s eQuote portal for securing student support services and technology from assistive technology service providers, what timescale is planned for the rollout of the tender procurement process that will replace the current interim eQuote portal.
3 February 2022
The e-quote system has been introduced as an interim measure to increase transparency of pricing and provide the department and the Student Loans Company (SLC) with improved access to data and information on the costs and supply of assistive technology. This is particularly important considering the concerns made public by the Competition and Markets Authority last year in relation to allegations of price-fixing of supplies to disabled students.
There are a number of quality measures in place for the equipment and associated services procured through SLC’s e-quote portal. All equipment procured through the e-quote portal must meet the relevant specification set by SLC and the department. The department has also set out its expectations for the standards that assistive technology service providers should meet in a guidance document published here: https://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/exchange-blog/2021/march/02032021-guidance-for-assistive-technology-service-providers-atsps/.
In addition to this, SLC conducts a regular student satisfaction survey to identify any issues that students may experience so that they can be addressed.
On the question of factors other than price, it is an essential criterion that the package of support quoted for meets the student’s needs and the relevant specification. Quotes are sourced only from suppliers who are registered with the department and are therefore required to comply with the standards referenced above. The system selects the most cost-effective solution once these requirements have been met, in line with SLC’s responsibilities for securing value for money for Disabled Students’ Allowance expenditure.
On the question of the timeframe for the procurement, SLC is due to publish a Prior Information Notice on 4 February 2022 which will set out further details.