Anger over withdrawal of college funding


Funding for young adults with learning difficulties to attend further education courses is being withdrawn at the last minute by local authorities, according to a disability charity.

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) said it was “very concerned” after receiving a string of reports from families during the late summer relating to courses at both residential specialist colleges and day courses at mainstream further education colleges.

Some students were halfway through courses, while others “suddenly had funding withdrawn with very little notice”.

Stuart Mills, DSA’s information officer, said: “Certainly over the last year people with Down’s syndrome in this age group were already being let down at the first hurdle of transition into adulthood.

“It has been very worrying that we have suddenly seen people who were there or had everything in place to go, having the rug pulled from beneath their feet.

“We have seen courses closed altogether with no other options being made available to people.”

Mills, who believes local authority funding cuts could be partly to blame, added: “It is particularly damaging that people are being deprived of the chance to leave home and better prepare for the next steps and ensure success in supported living placements.”

No-one from the Learning and Skills Council, which plans and funds further education in England, was available to comment.

But a Local Government Association spokeswoman stressed that only a “very small number of cases” had contacted the DSA, although it was “obviously very upsetting” for any individual who had lost council funding.

She added: “Sadly, the recession is hitting councils in a variety of ways.

“We are aware of authorities having to make very difficult decisions about how to use their resources, which are suffering from a perfect storm of reduced income and increased demand.”

DSA is keen to collect further evidence of cases where previously agreed funding for further education courses has been withdrawn.

Anyone with information about such cases can email [email protected]

15 September 2009