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Reactions grow against closure of ILAs


Objections to the government's closure of the Individual Learning Account programme are getting organised and more vocal. Representatives of training organisations will meet MPs next Tuesday to protest at the way the programme has been handled, and to demand for an inquiry by the Parliamentary ombudsman.

The suspension of ILAs in England was announced in October, with a final date of 7th December for booking new courses under it. However, two weeks short of this, the DfES announced that the scheme would close immediately, due to further accusations of fraud. As there are more than 2 million ILA account holders, informing all of them of the successive changes has not come cheap. The National Audit Office, the independent body which examines public spending, is now investigating. The adult skills ministere John Healey was subjected to a grilling by an all-party select committee last week.

The government, CBI and TUC have all recently stated the need for improvements in IT skills in the UK, but so far no successor to the scheme has yet been announced that could provide widespread subsidised IT training to adults.

Many of the community and library-based training organisations that were training people through the scheme are now in financial difficulties. Protestors against the governement's handling of the ILAs have stressed that organisations like this were responding in good faith to government appeals to develop the information society. On the business side of the objections, James Golfar of Internet Exchange, which has 40 training centres, has stated that trainers had no choice but to become very involved with ILAs because the scheme transformed their market.

The overall plan for the future of the scheme in the UK is unclear, but at present it has been closed in England and Northern Ireland, and temporarily suspended in Scotland and Wales.

A TrainingZone member writes:
As a previous user of the Individual Learning Accounts, I am devastated to have lost the above funding. I am a working mother of 3 very active children currently studying towards a psychology degree.

I relied on the funding from ILA to help with my Open University fees - it is the only way I could have afforded to do it.

I can't believe there weren't measures they could introduce to get rid of the sharks rather than scrap it altogether. They do rather seem to have chosen the easy way out. There really was very little notice and some of us have been left high and dry!

It was a fantastic opportunity while it lasted - I only hope they resurrect it as soon as possible.

Arlette Rowe


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