'Impossible to Avoid Abuse' of Adult Education Scheme; INVESTIGATION: Initiative Stopped Because of Fraud Threat
A SCHEME to help adults take up education courses was found to be vulnerable to fraudsters abusing the system, officials said yesterday.
The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) was forced to shut down the Individual Learning Accounts system last November, by which time more than pounds 280m of taxpayers' money had been committed to the project, an unknown amount of it stolen.
In Wales the scheme had initially proved successful with 40,000 people using the incentive to do some learning.
The scheme continued to operate until December 21 when the National Assembly decided it had no option but to suspend it because of the threat of fraud.
In evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee, DfES officials responsible for the Individual Learning Accounts system said the scheme's very simplicity made it a target for fraud.
The officials were unable to say when the successor scheme would be up and running despite intense pressure from training providers, many of whom have had to lay off staff after the scheme was abruptly halted on November 23, two weeks ahead of schedule.
Across Britain more than 2.5 million accounts were opened as people rushed to get subsidised training - mainly in computer skills. …