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Elmwood’s most vulnerable students left floundering

Posted by Mary on

Senior managers at Elmwood College have stated  that, after the coming academic year, there are “no guarantees” for the future of the Student Development Department, which serves students with special needs and complex and profound learning difficulties. In addition, the special needs students on  the  2 day per week Adult Programmes course have been informed that, because of funding cuts, the only way their course can continue to run is if they pay £50 per week for the next academic year. The course has in the past been offered free. It seems that the most vulnerable of Elmwood College’s student population has been completely disregarded in the scramble for a merger with the other Scottish land based colleges.

The disturbing factor amid the jubilation and self congratulation of the announcement of the merger is that the Student Development Department does not seem to figure in the plans. The department serves students with complex additional needs not only from local areas but from all over Scotland, and is widely regarded as a leading force in supported education.  Senior management have stated that “there are no guarantees” as to the future of the only college facility in Scotland which offers fulltime 5 days per week courses to students with profound and complex learning difficulties, a facility that is unique in that it also offers fully supported accommodation to students who don’t live close enough to travel to college every day.

The tag line on Elmwood’s website  reads “Delivering Skills for Life and Work” –  are we to presume that, after the merger, the plan is that “Skills for Life” be shelved in favour of “Skills for Work” and the more able students?

Elmwood Principal, Jim Crooks’ quote in the Courier read “Elmwood College is working to ensure our curriculum portfolio is aligned to Government priorities” Are we to understand then, that Government priorities are to allow students with severe learning difficulties to fall by the wayside if they can’t afford to pay £50 per week for their college course ? According to the Scottish Funding Council, they are unaware of any cuts or charges for courses aimed at people with learning difficulties.

The merger of the four colleges has been hailed as wonderful news and we are told it will bring a turnover of around £77 Million a year, according to a Courier article of 16th May 2012.  Since the combined income of the four colleges for the year ending 2011 was over £77 Million, we wonder what sort of news this is.

We also find in a Courier report on June 2nd 2012 that the merger will mean a difference of nearly £700,000 , because the merger puts the combined four colleges into the higher education rather than the further education funding bracket.  Fortunate, we suppose, that arithmetic is not a land based subject (or maybe something is not being said?).

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13 Responses to Elmwood’s most vulnerable students left floundering

  1. Andrea writes:

    I am also very concerned with this news that my son will have to find £50 a week for his two day course. I’m also worried that not enough students will be able to find the money for the course to go ahead. If we can’t bring this to the attention of a larger audience these young adults will have nowhere to go to continue their learning

  2. JackieC writes:

    Very concerning news, considering the massive budget cuts within social work, fife council, primary trusts mean that there is no other funding available to fund this £50 fee! Surely vunerable adults, who are in receipt of benefits, should be as entitled to funding, as able bodied students are – I wonder what The Student Support Agency (SAS) would have to say about that! I think the powers that be need to read the current legislation such as Scottish Commission for Human Rights Act 2006 ,Social Work (Scotland) Act 1997, The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 which support equality and the opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge REGARDLESS of ability/disability!!! and that is statute!

  3. anngibson55 writes:

    This is an outrage. £50 may not be a big amount for some people but a huge amount for others who cannot afford to pay. What are these vulnerable disabled young people supposed to live on? It’s a large chunk of their allowance. It would appear that these vulnerable young people are being penalised. There are “others” in this society who are better supported. Need I say more?

  4. lizl writes:

    Discrimination against such a vulnerable group is an outrage! I’m thinking they are planning on not enough students taking up the option to pay so they have an excuse to drop the programme altogether. Hope you are planning on taking this to local MSP’s as well as all the local papers? Elmwood should hang their heads in shame!

  5. Alex writes:

    Where is the ethos and culture now?
    In a recent report Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) praised Elmwood in an inspection focusing on learners with profound and complex needs, and the work done by Elmwood’s Student Development and Inclusiveness teams. The provision was identified as being unique, in relation to the supported accommodation / residential provision, and in relation to the physical environment of the College campus, its size, its ethos and its culture and how these factors impact on the experience of learners with complex and profound support needs.
    This is what they can’t guarantee they’ll continue? This is what they want to start charging disabled people on benefits for? It’s a disgrace. Has anyone asked HMIe for a comment?

  6. lorraine p writes:

    This is very concerning news. Students having to find £50 for this two day course is an outrage. If there are not enough students enrolled in the course because of the cost the course will not go ahead. We need to bring this issue to the attention of the media and our MSP to ensure our young adults have somewhere to go to continue their learning and transition to employment or training.
    Lorraine

  7. lorraine p writes:

    The news that Elmwwod are charging £50 per week for our young vulnerable adults continuing their education is unbelievable, this is blatant discrimination against young adults with disabilities, the ones who need support. Life is difficult for these young adults and now some of them won’t manage to continue their eduction due to lack of money, If nothing else this is morally wrong at so may level

    B Drummond

  8. Jim writes:

    Well, we have received the letter confirming that it will cost our son £50 a week if he wishes to continue the adult programes (TWO day a week) at Elmwood. He does not have the money, so does he just sit in the house? We have written a letter of complaint to the coledge and suggest you do the same if this effects you.

  9. anngibson55 writes:

    We wrote a letter of complaint to the college and have since had a reply from them which is 2 pages of waffling. From what I understand, they will only fund students who are employable and have recognised qualifications. Correct me if I am wrong. So what they are saying is that the most vulnerable young adults who has limited financial support has to pay for their education. That is very wrong because I feel that it is bad enough that they have limited support in life. Every means of support that we as parents have for these young adults had to be fought for. Now, I feel that they are being discriminated against because they are unemployable. Daniel does benefit from the 1 day at Elmwood. I am totally disgusted and outraged.

  10. Mary writes:

    We also wrote individually to the outgoing Principal of Elmwood College and have received a reply from his deputy, undoubtedly the same reply as received above. The key paragraph in the two page letter is right at the end and reads “The Scottish Government have told us what our priorities must be, so people with ASN (Additional Special Needs) who are not following recognised qualifications towards employability, or who are outwith the priority age group (16-19 year olds) will NOT be exempt from the impact of such sever cuts to funding for learning and teaching”.

    The way I read this is that anyone who is not able to gain a recognised qualification which will lead directly into employment will not be considered for a course in further education anywhere. What is the Minister of Education and LIFELONG LEARNING saying about this ?

  11. JackieC writes:

    As much as i am so so so dissapointed about the Elmwood issue, this letter is like a extract from my training last week!  There is a huge shift on politically, through funding and amalgamation of colleges with a focus on Outcomes! The emphasis is on local authorities to get social work to “be creative” through the use of self direct support (SDS).  In some ways i see and respect the ideology but as usual its a half-baked approach that has no sustinance and no planning and no participation.  To simply withdraw one service provision before others are in place is not in any way acceptable! My advice at this point is get a hold of your social worker and ask her about SDS and start the planning process as manner to try to secure some sort of day to day routine for our young people.  It is a travisty the way in which they have tried to sweep this under the carpet when every single part of legislation states that its about participation, empowerment and individuality!!!
     
    Jackie
     

  12. Editor writes:

    Editors Note – As an addition to JackieC’s comment, you should note that SDS stands for Self Directed Support and that it is a Bill going through parliament. It is not yet law. That is not to suggest that you don’t take the advice and start tackling your social worker.

    As we understand it, the current detail of the Bill could be implemented now, if the Local Authority chose to risk creating precedents. We know that there are opportunities and risks which will come with SDS and we will be encouraging members to comment on this and share their views, information and experiences in our forum.

    The official source of information is: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Health/care/sdsbill

  13. DJScotty writes:

    I went to Elmwood college year’s ago I think it’s SO Very Wrong by doing this I have friends in the adult programmes I am telling my friends to come to Adam Smith college because it’s free just now it’s because they have lost the European Social fund and I have contacted my local MSP as well. I have a letter she gave me a copy that she email to the Principal I am still waiting for a reply.

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