Individual Learning Accounts

Education and Skills written question – answered on 6th November 2001.

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Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures are being taken to guarantee the quality of (a) the learning providers and (b) the courses on offer, through the individual learning account scheme.

Photo of John Healey John Healey Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills)

ILAs were designed to encourage more people into learning by helping tackle the financial barriers to learning. It was a key principle of the design that people were able to take responsibility for learning they felt to be most appropriate and most beneficial to themselves. ILAs are not and were not intended to be a guarantee of quality for learning or learning providers.

Of course the Government do not want ILAs to be used for poor value learning or by providers that cause concern. In July of this year, the Department started to receive increasing numbers of complaints from individuals and local trading standards officers. In response the Department took positive actions to tighten up the ILA system to address these problems. We re-registered all learning providers, withdrew blank application forms, suspended all new provider registrations, introduced a revised learning provider agreement that made it harder for providers to act against the ethos of the programme, and made changes to the applications process, for the same purpose. While we have taken this action the first safeguard remains an informed public looking for learning of value to them.

However, it became clear that these changes were not sufficient by themselves to prevent the mis-selling of ILAs. At that point we decided we had no option other than to withdraw the programme, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 24 October that ILAs are to be suspended from 7 December. The programme has exceeded the Government's expectations in encouraging very large numbers of people to take a new interest in learning, and has quickly expanded beyond its capacity. The programme has attracted over 2.5 million account holders.

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