Headlines: October 25th, 2001

The Department of Education and Skills has taken the embarrassing step of suspending its Individual Learning Account (ILA) programme.No new learners will be accepted onto the programme for the time being, but existing learners can continue with their plans, provided they are booked on to an approved course by December 7.

The chief reason given is that the programme has exceeded the Government’s expectations in encouraging very large numbers of people to sign up to the scheme, which allows part of the fee for a range of courses to be paid by the Government.

The Government also says it is concerned by evidence that some ILAs have been exploited by companies providing poor value for money.

More than 2.5 million people have opened an account to access cheaper learning since the scheme began. One of the reasons for this is that it has been quite easy to use the ILA money for a range of learning which might have been undertaken anyway, with the scheme just bringing the cost down.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris admits it’s time to think again about how useful the scheme is in providing good value for money.

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the decision, and say that the misuse of the scheme by a few unscrupulous training organisations should not be used as an excuse to abandon the programme.