HC Deb 18 May 2004 vol 421 cc901-2W
Mr. Swire

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) when he will announce his decision on the funding arrangements and provision for non-accredited learning programmes under the Adult and Community Learning scheme; [174035]

(2) what the timescale is for making a decision on the funding mechanisms for adult and community learning provision for non-accredited learning programmes. [173928]

Mr. Ivan Lewis

We have agreed with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the national budget for adult and community learning for 2004–05, of £207.4 million, up from £206 million in 2003–04. This fulfils the commitment to safeguard opportunities for lifelong learning not leading to qualifications, set out in the Skills White Paper "21st Century Skills: Realising Our Potential".

In the summer we and the LSC intend to consult on proposals to integrate adult and community learning more fully into post-16 learning and skills provision, including, where appropriate, funding such provision through the LSC's funding formula. Decisions will be made in the autumn, with initial allocations of budgets to local LSCs in December 2004.

Clive Efford

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skill if he will reform financial support for adults to encourage learning. [173894]

Alan Johnson

In July 2003, we announced in our Skills Strategy White Paper "21st Century Skills" an increase in the financial support to help adults in further education with the costs of learning through a new adult learning grant. The grant is available on a pilot basis in 10 local Learning and Skills Council areas. We plan to double the size of the current pilot from September by making the adult learning grant available across the South-East and North-East regions. We are also considering how other existing funds for supporting adult learners in further education and training can best support the priorities of the Skills Strategy.

Proposals for improving the package of financial support for undergraduates were announced in January at Commons Second Reading of the Higher Education Bill. This includes introduction of a non-repayable grant of up to £2,700 each year for students from lower income backgrounds. We are improving the package of support for part-time students, many of whom are mature. In 2004–05 part time students on low incomes will be able to get a grant of up to £575 for fees and a grant of up to £250 for course costs. We will continue to provide additional, targeted financial support for vulnerable students, through Higher Education institutions, to ensure that more of them are able to access and remain in higher education.