The government has pledged to make key improvements to its training and education bill, to make it easier for disabled students to join a basic apprenticeship scheme.
The promise came as discussion of the apprenticeships, skills, children and learning bill resumed at the committee stage in the House of Lords.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), a campaigning and information-sharing network led by disabled people, has been calling for more flexible entry requirements to the apprenticeships entitlement.
The bill currently says that all suitably qualified young people would be entitled to a basic “level two” apprenticeship place.
But ALLFIE says the requirement to have five GCSEs in order to secure this entitlement discriminates against many young disabled people, such as those with learning difficulties.
Lord Young, the junior business, innovation and skills minister, told fellow peers that the government would bring forward amendments at the next stage of the bill to provide more flexible entry requirements for young people with learning difficulties.
Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s campaigns and policy coordinator, welcomed the announcement and said: “It is really positive that the government has acknowledged that there is a need to have greater flexibility in terms of assessing young disabled people’s entitlement to an apprenticeship scheme.”
But she said the “proof of the pudding is in the eating” and that ALLFIE was “looking forward to working with the government” on the amendments to ensure they provided the necessary flexibility.
She added: “We think the apprenticeship scheme is a really good opportunity to promote disabled young people’s inclusion in mainstream employment and education environments.
“It offers the chance for disabled and non-disabled young people to have positive experiences of learning and working together throughout their lives.”
Before discussion of the bill resumed after the summer recess, ALLFIE had helped organised a visit for Lord Young to a training scheme in Hertfordshire.
During the visit to Hertfordshire Personal Assistant Support Service, he heard from disabled young apprentices about the barriers that disabled young people face in finding an apprenticeship placement.
At the age of 16, young disabled people are twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training as their non-disabled peers (15 per cent compared to 7.1 per cent).
The bill has now finished its committee stage and is due to begin its report stage in the Lords on 2 November.
ALLFIE still hopes to persuade the government to make further changes to the bill around inclusion and access before it becomes law.
19 October 2009