In early October, the Government announced that it will end the Union Learning Fund (ULF) from March 2021. This is deeply concerning, especially when we are in the middle of a recession, and when workplaces and the jobs market are rapidly changing, as a result of the pandemic.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has highlighted how for more than 20 years the ULF has supported working people to access skills and training at work, for both union members and non-members. The TUC has noted that the ULF delivers an estimated net contribution to the economy of more than £1.4 billion as a result of a boost to jobs, wages and productivity.
The scheme benefits workers, our economy and business, and has reached hundreds of thousands of learners over the years, many with no prior qualifications. I therefore believe that the Government must urgently reconsider the decision to cut the ULF.
The Government recently stated that the decision on the ULF was taken in light of its “expanded commitment to skills development through the National Skills Fund, and Lifetime Skills Guarantee.” It stated that overall, it is investing much more in adult skills retraining.
Now is a crucial time to help people with new skills and retraining, and I am deeply concerned that the opportunity to access the ULF is being taken away from working people. I do not understand why, at this moment, the Government has decided to end a tried and tested system.
I am further concerned that the measures announced in the Lifetime Skills Guarantee will not reverse the impact of a decade of cuts and will not give workers the skills and support they need in the months ahead.
I have long called for investment in the skills of working people and those seeking work. They are, and always have been, the greatest asset in our economy. It is only by making the most of all their potential that we can truly recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve a lasting and shared prosperity.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, and asked him to reconsider the cancellation of the ULF. I have posted a copy of this letter below for you to see.
I can assure you that I will continue to monitor developments in this area closely and push the Government to reconsider the decision to cut the ULF.