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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 15:33 GMT
Training accounts 'chaos' attacked
Adult education
The grants were intended for helping adult learners
Training grants which had been beset by accusations of fraud have been scrapped in England earlier than had been intended.

The government's announcement of the immediate suspension of Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) was attacked by the Conservatives as "inept" and "compounding the chaos" surrounding the scandal-hit grants.

Shadow Education Secretary Damian Green has challenged the timing of the announcement and the sudden change of schedule in scrapping the training scheme.

Damian Green
Damian Green wants to know "what ministers are trying to hide"

"What are ministers trying to hide? Why was this latest statement made on a Friday night? Why is no replacement scheme on the horizon?" said Mr Green.

The shadow education secretary has put down parliamentary questions on the subject and has repeated calls for the learning accounts to be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee.

Individual learning accounts, which provided support for adult education, had already faced phasing out next month, amid claims that the grants system was being abused.

But the Department for Education now says that the scheme is to be shut down at once - and that the police will investigate allegations of fraud.

The department says that the immediate closure of the learning accounts is in response to new information - and has no connection with earlier allegations.

And it has not confirmed whether this represents a permanent closure or a suspension pending a review and police inquiries.

The official "my-ila.com" website has just a single front page saying the programme had been shut down "to safegaurd [sic] individuals" - that is, ILA account holders.

Fraudsters

The learning accounts were intended to provide a flexible funding system for adult training courses, in areas such as information technology or vocational skills.

The government provided grants worth up to 200 per student - and previous allegations have suggested that fraudsters were taking this money and giving back little in return.

The government has argued that the fraud claims have only applied to a very small fraction of course providers - and that many people have improved their work skills through the grants.

Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


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