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Adult Learning Provision

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 9 June 2011

17. What steps he plans to take to target adult learning provision on those who most need support. (57795)

It is a joy to answer successive questions, Mr Speaker.

Support for those in greatest need is the key priority for this Government and our skills strategy. We have protected funding for basic skills and provision for the unemployed, we have targeted entitlements to help those in most need, and we are reforming adult and community learning to engage better with disadvantaged people.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. One of the most disadvantaged groups of people in society are those who were failed by the academic system in their youth. This Government have set their stall out to ensure greater social mobility. What will my hon. Friend do to ensure that those in that group fulfil their potential under his plans for the future?

This Government, against all expectations and in the most difficult financial circumstances, protected the budget for adult and community learning. It is no wonder that Alan Tuckett of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education said:

“The adult and community learning safeguard is a key platform on which the Big Society can be built.”

This Government, true to their word, defended adult learning—the people’s policy, the people’s Minister, and the people’s party.

The Minister has said that it is a key priority for this Government to provide support to those most in need. Sadly, the changes to funding for ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—will take support away from those most in need. The Government have promised an equality impact assessment. When will we see it, and if it is as bad as many of us fear, will he delay the proposed changes?

The hon. Lady highlighted these matters in an Adjournment debate, as the whole House will know, and she has made a consistent case on the subject. I did indeed ask for a further impact assessment, because I want to be sure that what we are doing is fair as well as cost-effective. We will bring the results of that assessment to the House before the summer.