Deficit reduction “can co-exist” with adult learning investment

15th May 2013

The Government should maintain current levels of public and private investment in adult learning and commit to raising them towards that of the current OECD average of 1.6% of GDP by 2020 to make the economy stronger and reduce cost pressures on social care, health, benefits and pensions. This is the headline proposal from NIACE to support the economy and the needs of employers, communities and families, ahead of Adult Learners’ Week (18-24 May) and the Spending Review in June.


To support this increased investment for 2020, NIACE has published proposals for the Spending Review. Research shows that, investment in learning for adults boosts skills levels, improves employability, ensures better health and improves children’s performance at school.


As part of a number of proposals, NIACE is urging the government to make the following three priority investments by 2020.


  • Raising theproportion of GDP spent on adult learning from the current 1.3% to the OECD average of 1.6% by 2020.
  • Restoring investment in community learning to the value it had when first ‘safeguarded’ in 2005 – an increase of £45m to £255m.
  • Maintaining real-terms spending on basic English and maths, Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG), and Apprenticeships.

NIACE believes these increases in investment will not only stimulate economic growth, but that they also offset spending across other Government departments. A range of research shows that:


  • the Net Present Value (NPV) of qualifications started in 2008/09 is estimated at £75bn over the years in which successful learners remain in the workforce
  • almost one-in-three Job Seeker’s Allowance claimants had either no or unclassifiable qualifications, and basic skills needs among benefit claimants are more than double the national average
  • improving healthy life expectancy by just one year each decade could generate a 14% saving in spending on healthcare and an 11% saving in spending on benefits between 2007 and 2025
  • there are potential savings of between £18.2 million and £36.3 million per annum from adults postponing entry into residential care for a month because of their participation in learning.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:


“Learning for adults of all ages has never been more important and the right level of public investment would help deliver a stronger economy. Learning for adults leads to higher productivity, better social mobility and is vital for the population’s health and wellbeing. The economy will also benefit because people will be healthier, social and health care costs will be reduced and people will be able to stay active in work for more years. As parents learn so they in turn boost their children’s achievements in school, helping to achieve long term improvements in skills. This is why we believe that investment in learning and skills for adults can co-exist with a long-term deficit reduction strategy.


“We recognise the government’s determination to reduce the budget deficit. However, any reduction in public expenditure on adult learning would be counterproductive, putting a brake on UK competitiveness.


“Investment in learning for adults is, of course, a shared responsibility. The government has a key role to play in supporting cost-efficiencies by providers and in stimulating greater investment in learning by employers, communities and learners themselves. We therefore also propose further investments to increase individual and employer spending on learning in order to support the economic, social, personal and business benefits which research shows follow on from such investments.”