BusinessPeople In BusinessHandling of ILAs a ‘catastophe’

Handling of ILAs a 'catastophe'

Conservative education spokesman Damian Green has repeated calls for the ongoing Individual Learning Account (ILA) crisis to be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee.

The Department for Education and Skills shut down the ILA programme two weeks earlier than its original 7 December deadline after police were called in to investigate further allegations of fraud and theft.

In a statement made last Friday night, the DfES said that the accounts had been suspended with immediate effect.

But Green has strongly criticised the government’s handling of the affair, and has asked why no replacement scheme has been outlined. ‘The government’s approach to the entire ILA catastrophe has been completely inadequate,’ he said.

MPs on the all-party Commons Education Select Committee have already demanded to know how much over budget the scheme had gone, but adult skills minister John Healey told them he was unable to provide even a ‘ball park’ figure.

‘The government minister with responsibility for the scheme admits that he has not got the faintest idea of how much the failure of this scheme has cost, or when he expects to introduce a proper scheme to replace it,’ he said.

‘Genuine training providers and anyone interested in promoting adult skills face further disappointment as the government lurches from one crisis to another on ILAs,’ he added.

Officers from the DfES special investigations unit uncovered further irregularities last Thursday after being contacted by an ILA provider. The inquiry is ongoing and the DfES has said it is unable to comment further for fear of compromising the investigation.

ILAs were launched in 1998 by former education secretary David Blunkett as a way of improving Britain’s basic skills. But a former government advisor described the fraud and theft allegations as a ‘red herring’ and a convenient excuse to close the scheme down.

She claimed that the subsidised training had failed to address its target audience. Instead, the majority of ILA holders were employed, skilled people who could afford to pay for their own development.

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PAC urged to investigate ILA scheme

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