Linkage Trust hits out at council ‘cuts’

A LOCAL college has accused the county council of failing the area’s disabled youth after it “stopped” referring youngsters to it in favour of a more mainstream education.

The Linkage Trust, which operates out of several sites including Toynton All Saints, has revealed that the number of disabled youngsters being referred to it by the county has fallen to zero this year.

That figure stands in stark contrast to 2010, when Lincolnshire referred 20 youngsters to theTrust.

The Trust believes this move is part of a cost-cutting measure at the council. And it has sparked an angry broadside from the award-winning college.

They have warned that the council’s decision to use mainstream education will fail the county’s disabled youth, leave them less able to look after themselves in later life, and ultimately cost the taxpayer more money than the county might have saved by avoiding the Trust’s bespoke service.

College Principal Matthew Orford said; “We’re seeing decisions being made where people with extreme autism and disabilities are being told that they most go to a mainstream college or go into day care.

“And that is clearly not appropriate.

“People with autism often can’t stand noise, clutter or large spaces, so trying to shoe-horn them into large colleges because it costs less on paper is inappropriate.”

He added that these ‘less suitable’ learning environments were more distressing for the disabled, were more damaging to self esteem and led to higher drop out rates among the severely disabled.

This, he warned, meant that the youths were often less likely to get gainful employment at the end of the process and would be far more dependent on state handouts.

This made a decision to seek mainstream education more costly in the long-term.

He added that the council’s stance made even less sense when dozens of councils across the UK continue to refer their severely disabled to the Trust owing to its glowing reputation.

Lincolnshire County Council’s assistant director of children’s services, Debbie Barnes, said: “Lincolnshire County Council hasn’t cut its budget in this area - funding to organisations like Linkage is provided by the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA), not the county council.

“It’s also untrue to say we have a policy that won’t place young people with independent providers as we have a number of these placements.

“It is a requirement for the council to consider mainstream further education colleges before considering independent providers, but we do place young people with organisations like Linkage.”

However Mr Orford has disputed the council’s statement, arguing that it is the local authority which informs the YPLA how much money it needs to pass on, and that it is the council who in reality has made the ‘cut’.

He added that from 2012 councils would also be taking over the YPLA’s role, arguing that this means that Lincolnshire will soon be directly responsible for the funding.