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Individual Learning Accounts

Volume 403: debated on Monday 10 March 2003

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If he will make a statement on individual learning accounts. [108252]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills
(Mr. Ivan Lewis)

We have acknowledged the serious mistakes that were made in the design and delivery of the individual learning accounts scheme. The hard lessons learned will inform the development of a successor scheme.

Despite the terrible rip-offs that bedevilled the implementation of the individual learning accounts scheme, does my hon. Friend agree that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the concept? Does he agree that unions such as the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—and I declare an interest as a member—instituted remarkably successful partnership schemes that exceeded what the Government had envisaged? What will the Government do to enable unions such as USDAW, and the TUC, to push the programme further and do vital work for many workers who have never been involved in education since leaving school?

My hon. Friend is right to say that the principles that underpinned the individual learning accounts scheme were absolutely right; ILAs were successful in getting non-traditional learners back into learning and in giving purchasing power to learners so that they could choose the learning that was most relevant to their needs. Singularly successful in that process was the role of intermediaries such as trade unions and grass-roots community-based voluntary organisations, which were able to influence learners who, in the past, had found education an entirely negative experience. When we announce the details of the successor scheme in June, as part of the skills strategy, we will seek to ensure that we uphold the original principles, which are as true now as they were before.