Exclusive: Liberal Democrats unveil plan to give £9,000 to over-25s for adult education

The Lib Dems have announced a plan to overhaul funding for adult education and training.

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The Liberal Democrats have unveiled plans to revolutionise lifelong learning in this country, by giving adults in England entitlement to £9,000 over their lifetime to pay for further education or training.

Under the new proposals, every adult in England would receive a Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA), into which the government would make at least three payments of £3,000 over the course of their lifetime.

From the age of 25, learners would be able to access the account to pay for education or training courses of their choice, accompanied by free careers advice.

Similar to an ISA or a workplace pension scheme, earners and employers would have the option of making their own contributions to the PESA, on top of the government’s contribution.   

Layla Moran MP, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson, said that the scheme was a proactive response to the challenges facing the adult education sector.

“As technology improves and the population ages, almost half of current workers will have to retrain during their lives,” she explained.

“The Conservatives spend less than two per cent of the total education budget on adults. If we do not invest in adult education, the UK economy will be left behind.”

The proposals were put together by the Independent Commission on Lifelong Learning, commissioned by the party’s former leader, Sir Vince Cable. The policy is expected to cost £1.3bn year, with a possible added cost of £300-£400m if the government decides to give tax breaks to individuals making voluntary contributions to their accounts.

Liberal Democrat members will debate and vote on the proposals at the party’s conference on Sunday 15 September. If passed by members, it will become party policy for the next general election.

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman