Community learning and development, which ranges from adult learning and youth work to community regeneration, is praised for showing greater "professional self-confidence".
But, the inspectors found, around half of local authorities have still to make their planning for CLD effective. Leadership in a fifth of courses inspected was weak or unsatisfactory, mainly because authorities give CLD low priority and fail to fund it properly.
While they believe CLD staff work well with other agencies, they have still to perfect the use of performance information to evaluate provision systematically and to improve services.
Other areas which should be improved include the use of assessment processes, self-evaluation and planning, staff training and development in about half of the local authorities, and the quality and appropriateness of accommodation and facilities.
Nonetheless, the report states that, for some participants "it is not an exaggeration to say that the impact (of CLD) can be life-changing".
It adds: "A significant number of adults are gaining employ-ment or progressing to further and higher education as a result of their involvement in adult learning programmes."
The report notes that "a major-ity of learners interviewed by HMIE had few or no previous qualifications. These learners are often balancing considerable life issues relating to poverty, child care, difficult family circumstances and poor health, with involvement and achievement in CLD programmes.
"Given this context, the achievements against the national priorities for CLD are significant."
The HMIE also found that "most of those participating in CLD programmes who had negative previous experiences of education find that these programmes offer them an accessible return to learning".
But, the inspectors say, there are gaps in the available information which make it difficult to assess how things are going. "With the exception of the literacy programme, there is insufficient data on the outcomes of adult learning in the community to identify trends in achievement," they state.