Government lines up learning for jobless

June 28, 1996

The Government is set to pilot a radical "learning on benefit" scheme next year which could encourage unemployed people to study while looking for a job.

The scheme would be a substantial softening of the Jobseeker's Act and would fill some of the gap left by the Government's decision not to back the idea of individual learning accounts.

A review of basic skills, commissioned in the Government's recent Competitiveness White Paper and due to be completed by the autumn, will re-examine the 16-hour rule which prevents students from enrolling on full-time courses.

James Paice, education and employment minister, said the new arrangements - which could include a relaxation of the 16-hour rule - could be introduced if it was found that people were more successful at securing a job.

The scheme was announced as part of a broader policy framework designed to promote lifetime learning. The Government has rejected individual learning accounts because there is little support from the financial institutions and "the administrative complexitities of any national model would be huge and costly". Mr Paice added that tax relief of about Pounds 84 million each year already assists individual lifetime learning.

Alongside the "learning on benefit" scheme, the Government is proposing a package of measures including a national telephone helpline and the development of local and national partnerships between employers, training providers and individuals.

Mr Paice said Pounds 5 million has already been invested in partnership developments, and he suggested this would be continued.

The minister acknowledged the lifetime learning policy framework was "not a quick fix" and he observed that "we don't believe there is a simple prescriptive solution to lifetime learning". He added that the Government would not be developing an overall detailed policy document on lifetime learning or setting up a Dearing-style commission.

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