Linkage Trust concerns for future of learners

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LINKAGE Trust, which has learning centres in Louth and Mablethorpe, says Lincolnshire Council County is ‘cutting down’ the amount of new learners with disabilities that are being referred to specialist learning centres.

Linkage Trust has learning sites all across Lincolnshire aimed at helping young people with autism and learning disabilities into higher education and integrating them into their local communities when their studies are complete.

The problem the Linkage Trust are now facing is the lack of new learners the county council are referring. In comparison to last year’s substantial number of children who attended Linkage based colleges, the figures show this year it has dramatically decreased to zero.

College Principal Matthew Orford said: “Last year we had an intake of 200 learners throughout our 1st, 2nd and 3rd years. This year no new learners have been sent.

“The council are now sending children to mainstream colleges, I have no problems with these colleges as we work closely alongside them. My main concern is that these type of colleges don’t have the required facilities to tender to the full attention of the children. At Linkage, we have the time.”

Debbie Barnes, Assistant Director of Children’s Services, said: “Lincolnshire County Council continues to work closely with mainstream providers to ensure that the learning needs of as many young people as possible can be met within or as close as possible to their home communities. Inevitably this will mean that fewer young people will need to be referred to independent specialist providers (ISP) to have their needs met. The Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) Guidance now requires local authorities to work with local mainstream learning providers to help them meet the needs of learners with learning difficulties and disabilities before they can refer cases to the YPLA for funding.

“We want to encourage young people to stay in learning after the age of 16 to achieve the highest educational standards they can. Young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities often need some support to achieve this. In most cases, this help can be provided by learning providers within or near to their home community such as schools and FE colleges. We have many excellent mainstream providers.

“The YPLA also funds Independent Specialist Providers (ISP) such as the Linkage Community Trust. ISPs are intended to cater only for learners with the most profound learning difficulties of all. We continue to place young people at ISP’s including Linkage and do not have a policy not to place at Linkage.

“The YPLA provides local authorities with guidance on how much funding it expects to make available for specialist placements and sets out how it can be accessed. We are expected to work with the YPLA to meet our budget allocations which is what has happened this year.”