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ILAs shut down early for criminal investigation


The Indidividual Learning Account programme has been closed down in England even earlier than expected. The DfES called police in on Friday to investigate fraud and theft allegations, following an alert by a training provider. The programme was suspended several weeks ago, and no new accounts have been available since then. However, existing account holders were told they could still use the scheme for further training if it was booked before 7th December. Now, though, the programme has been brought to a complete halt.

Fraud allegations were the main reason cited for the initial suspension of the scheme, and it is not clear how the latest developments are more severe. The scheme was a great success in terms of public response: 2.5 million people opened accounts to give them help with training costs, dwarfing the government target of 1 million. However, the openness of the scheme and the low level of quality checking left it open to abuse and "aggressive misselling". In spite of the enthusiastic public participation, the scheme has also failed to reach the least skilled as much as intended.

Last week there were suggestions in the press that in spite of the fraud allegations, the success of the scheme would ensure it was unlikely to be scrapped entirely. TrainingZone's survey suggested that there is a lot of support for keeping the momentum of the scheme going. But in spite of speculation and calls to reinstate the accounts, there has been no official statement on what will replace ILAs or how they will be modified. Further news is expected today.

The suspension only covers England, and according to the DfES, administrators in the rest of the UK will "develop proposals to reflect their own priorities."

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