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Usdaw disappointed as Government minister fails to understand the unique contribution of UnionLearn

Date: 18 November 2020 Usdaw has expressed deep disappointment about the response of the Skills Minister to today’s House of Commons Westminster Hall debate about the decision of the Government to end the Union Learning Fund, which delivers access to lifelong learning for around 200,000 workers each year.

The Government has announced that it will be scrapping the Union Learning Fund in England next year and Usdaw, along with other trade unions and the TUC, are calling for the move to be reconsidered. Today’s debate was initiated by Lilian Greenwood MP (Labour Nottingham South).

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It was deeply disappointing to hear the minister defend the closure of the much valued and unique UnionLearn, which shows that the Government fails to understand the value of what has been achieved over the last twenty years and the vital role union learning can play in delivering its own adult skills agenda.

“The minister wrongly described UnionLearn as ‘niche’, in fact it reaches the people other schemes do not, with workplace union reps supporting and guiding workers back into education. Many learners start with few or no qualifications and have gone on to engage with higher level education, like an apprenticeship.

“Learning and re-skilling must be at the core of the Covid-19 recovery, so it makes no sense for the Government to end the Union Learning Fund next year. This unique scheme brings lifelong learning into many workplaces, pulling together the resources of employers, education providers and trade unions to give workers a second chance to learn.

“We welcome the cross party support UnionLearn received in today’s debate and note that not one Conservative backbencher turned up to defend the Government’s decision. We urge MPs to support the Save Union Learn campaign and we continue to seek a change of heart from the Government.”

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

Early Day Motion 1039 – Union Learn: That this House recognises the exemplary and invaluable role played by Unionlearn in helping people acquire skills and qualifications to boost their job prospects and make a valuable contribution to the economy; applauds Unionlearn for aiding hundreds of thousands of learners at all levels, from basic numeracy and literacy to degree level qualifications; notes that during the past 12 years more than 40,000 Union Learning Representatives have been trained, and over a quarter of a million people are being given training and learning opportunities through their union every year; is appalled that the Government intends to axe this vital resource at such a challenging time for education, employment and the economy; and calls upon the Government to reconsider and reverse this damaging decision. Amendment 1: At end add 'and urges the Secretary of State for Education to consider the value Unionlearn offers in promoting skills and opportunities and to reinstate the scheme.' https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57606

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers