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LGA - £1.5 billion funding boost needed to reverse record low number of adult learners

Thousands of disadvantaged adults are being held back from vital support to help them get on in life with funding for adult learning falling by almost half over the last decade, councils have warned..

The Local Government Association is concerned that reductions in adult education funding have coincided with a drop of 3.8 million adult learners since 2010. This has left just 33 per cent of adults on courses or in training – a record low since figures began in 1996.

Despite needing it the most, adults with the lowest qualifications are the least likely to access adult training.

In order to boost support for disadvantaged adults, the LGA is urging the Government to at least double the Adult Education Budget – some of which funds local authority adult and community education provision – from £1.5 billion to £3 billion.

Councils run successful adult learning centres to support their communities. However faced with unprecedented funding cuts to adult education, many councils face the prospect of reducing provision or winding down their adult learning centres altogether.

The LGA said increasing adult education funding and devolving it to councils and combined authorities would enable them to deliver much-needed skills provision to help adults that need support the most get the skills they need to progress in life, either by acting as stepping stones to further education or employment, or by giving them the skills to lead more independent and healthier lives, in a way that cannot be achieved by our centralised employment and skills system run from Whitehall.

This would improve access for people to a range of entry level courses through to professional qualifications, provide interview support and confidence-boosting programmes and help more people already in work with courses to re-train, upskill or move up in the workplace.

As our economy is changing, with digitalisation, extended working lives and our exit from the European Union, upskilling our adult workforce must be a top priority for councils to play their part in driving sustainable growth.

The LGA has warned that six million people in England risk being without a job or in work they are over-qualified for by 2030, which could lead to a potential loss of £120 billion in economic output by the end of the decade.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said:

“Additional funding to local authority adult education providers has the ability to transform people’s lives by supporting the most vulnerable, including the long-term unemployed, or those out of work due to redundancy, ill-health or caring responsibilities to get the support they need.

“A lack of support is holding back adults that need help the most – putting the mental health and wellbeing of our communities at risk and increasing their likelihood of isolation and loneliness.

“Councils are committed to supporting the Government to reduce inequality in our regions. With much-needed investment, adult learning can improve health and wellbeing, upskill our workforce, support disadvantaged groups, reduce unemployment and underemployment, promote economic growth, reduce the welfare bill, and decrease social isolation, anxiety and loneliness.

“By increasing adult education funding and handing control over how it’s spent locally, councils and combined authorities can help revolutionise adult education support, getting thousands more people the support they need to get on in their careers.”

Case studies


Notes to editors

  1. Our Local Skills Deficits and Spare Capacity report, by the Learning & Work Institute for the LGA, modelled potential skills gaps in 2030 in England with particular focus on eight areas within England. The report predicted that over the next decade in England there will be a surplus of 6.2 million low and intermediate skilled workers than there are jobs, and a shortage of 2.5 million high skilled workers.
  2. Work Local is the LGA’s vision for a devolved employment and skills service.
  3. With the European Social Fund coming to an end this year, which is used to fund skills and employment support, the LGA has called for greater clarity and for local government to play a central role in re-designing its domestic successor, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. We have also published a report on it.
  4. Research by the Social Mobility Commission has revealed that the poorest and least qualified adults are less likely to access adult skills training.
  5. Analysis for the Department for Education has already shown that 52 local adult learning providers delivering short, part-time courses focused on managing symptoms of mental health problems found that four in 10 learners saw improvements in their symptoms of anxiety, and three in 10 for their symptoms of depression.
Original article link: https://www.local.gov.uk/ps15-billion-funding-boost-needed-reverse-record-low-number-adult-learners

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