The world of work is changing yet the government scraps schemes which help people adjustby Kate Green / November 11, 2020 / Leave a comment
Over the last 10 years, the government has slashed billions of pounds of funding from further and adult education, while creating new barriers to access and progression. Now, having pledged to reverse some—but not all—of its own damaging policies, the government is trying to present itself as the champion of life-long learning.
The headline new commitment—the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which will give those without A level or equivalent qualifications free training to this level—is welcome, and has Labour’s support. Indeed, we backed this idea eight years ago, when the coalition was abolishing similar support for the vast majority of courses. But a government undoing its own mistakes is the minimum to be expected, and the latest effort does not go nearly far enough to address the looming rise in unemployment.
Millions more people could be unemployed this winter, yet new funding for training will not even be available until April. Those who have been on furlough since March may not have worked for over a year by then. For those put at risk by the self-imposed cliff edge, this simply isn’t good enough.
That is why, weeks ago, Labour was calling for retraining to be a core element both of the replacement for the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) and of our economic recovery more broadly. The failure to listen to these constructive demands will put the livelihoods of working people at risk.
And even if the core of the government’s proposal is a welcome—if long overdue—recognition of the importance of further and adult education, ministers are still not offering sufficient support to those who need retraining the most.
It is deeply concerning that not only is there no new help for those who need training at lower skill levels, but that the government is actually seeking to scrap some of the existing support altogether. The Union Learning Fund (ULF), at a cost of just £12m a year to the government, helps hundreds of thousands of working people to access education or training. The scheme is supported by workers, unions and businesses. Everyone who has a stake in this policy knows that it works, but that hasn’t prevented the government,…