Capita's new role in learning accounts

THE private contractor criticised for its "considerable shortcomings" in running a now abandoned adult learning programme is playing a key role in developing a successor scheme.

The Government revealed it is working with Capita on the scheme to replace individual learning accounts, scrapped last year amid evidence of fraud and abuse.

Capita was described by a Commons select committee that investigated ILAs as "culpable" in a debacle that was wide open to fraud and "a licence to print money".

MPs said they found it hard to believe Capita did not point out the scheme was "a disaster waiting to happen".

But the Department for Education and Skills announced this week that it will continue to work with Capita, "subject to satisfactory progress and the outcome of negotiations with them".

It will announce detailed proposals for the new scheme, including a start date, in the autumn.

In its response to the select committee's report, the DFES said: "The department and Capita have have gained a great deal of experience from running ILAs. The lessons learnt will be built on to the benefit of a successor scheme."

The DFES strongly defended the initial scheme: "The programme was successful in many ways ... that is why the Secretary of State and ministers have been clear that a successor scheme will be developed."

It said that 2.6 million people became account holders, 1.3m accounts were set up, and evaluation found 91 per cent of ILA learning had "met or exceeded expectations".

The DFES also said it is considering how to use the Learning and Skills Council to monitor the new scheme.

John Harwood, the LSC's chief executive, said: "We welcome the assurance that we will be involved in the successor scheme and we are willing to play a key role."

Barry Sheerman, chairman of the select committee, expressed disappointment that the successor scheme would not be in place until the next session of Parliament. He said: "It is very frustrating when this committee clearly asked for an early replacement."

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