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You Said - College provision for young people with complex and severe learning difficulties [Read our response here...]

Submitted: 27/04/2015 - My son is currently going into transition and I was very disappointed to see what further education is available to young people with complex and severe learning difficulties in Wolverhampton.

Read our response... - 20/07/2015

This council is paying for young people to attend colleges outside Wolverhampton because their provision is very poor in comparison. I would like to suggest this city looks into providing their own facilities to meet the needs of a variety of young people with complex difficulties.

I am the Mum of disabled twins in transition to adult services and I am dismayed at the lack of provision that this city has to offer. I desperately want to keep them at home and it's in Wolverhampton's best interest to help me do so particularly financially. I am not alone in this as there are numerous families in transition at Tettenhall Wood alone that want their young people to remain in their home environment. If they do go away to college the cost is staggering, and in my case, I'm not sure if I could cope with them after not doing it day to day for 3 years, so then there would be the financial burden on the authority to provide residential care. Wolverhampton College has made a good start but there are not enough places and it won't suit all the young adults.

When my children were first diagnosed, I was very proud to tell everyone how fantastic Wolverhampton was for its excellent provision and holistic approach. I felt so lucky to be living within an authority that offered such a good level of service compared to other surrounding authorities. Since then all we have seen are cuts after cuts, which long-term will have disastrous effects on families with disabilities and possibly put them at breaking point, where more resources will be needed than had the original amount spent on these services been retained, e.g. Windmill, Stowlawn, Multicare and cutting hourly rates of personal assistants on direct payments.

What has happened to that commitment to its young people now they are coming into adulthood? I have seen excellent provision out of the Borough and it seems that is where many of our young people end up. But WHY? This is not cost effective to Wolverhampton and the enormous cost of sending one person out of the Borough would probably pay for at least five places locally, including transport costs!!! So why can't the people holding the purse strings be a little more forward thinking and decide to invest in a large and comprehensive new college that can encompass ALL types of disability from Wolverhampton?

It certainly isn't rocket science to foresee that any investment and commitment now will be returned over a few years if we can proudly say to every young disabled person "no we cannot fund out of Borough as Wolverhampton can offer exactly what you require." All money could then be retained in Borough and we would have an outstanding provision that surrounding authorities would want to buy into.

Imagine a college so comprehensive in its provision that all of the Midlands would be looking to for examples of good practice! It could happen and now is the time, especially with the new EHC plans that are looking towards provision up until 25.  My vision is a college, possibly running alongside Wolverhampton College, but purpose built. It could provide for all students leaving from the 4 special schools and there could be inclusion into the college for those young people who were able to access this. There would be a "towards work" programme for the more able and involvement in the local community. There would be some residential places on offer but be predominantly offering day places and also respite and out of college activities and clubs for evenings, weekends and holidays. It would cater for all people on the autistic spectrum, profoundly disabled, moderate and severe learning disabilities. Students would be put into groups of similar abilities rather than age. There would be both swimming and hydrotherapy pools and access to the mainstream college gym. The pool could also be hired out to Girls High, St Peters and St Edmunds as there is no pool at these schools.

We need to be thinking BIG as there are more and more disabled children and numbers looking for college places will only be rising. This campus could also encompass the day centres so that after college students would have continuity of care in a familiar environment.

The Gem Centre has been such a success and a flagship of good practice as have Tettenhall Wood, Green Park and Penn Fields new schools; let's make our adult services outstanding too! I would welcome the opportunity to meet with decision makers to discuss this plan further.  I understand there is a newly formed SEND Partnership Board and I would like to request that this Board considers my request.

We did...

Response to Local Offer comments: Post-16 education for disabled children:

Thank you for your comments and acknowledgement of the strength of our Special School provision within the City to 19 years.

The introduction of the 2014 Code of Practice places a duty on all of the stakeholders within the City to ensure we can now meet the needs of our Young People to age 25. In the chapter 'Preparing for adulthood from the earliest years' it is stated that Local Authorities have a strategic leadership role in fulfilling their duties concerning the participation of young people in education and training, working with schools, colleges and post-16 providers, as well as other agencies.  There is a link to published information on 'Participation of young people in education, employment or training' in the references section of the SEN Code of Practice, under Chapter 8.

The Department for Education (DfE) have specific guidance on how provision for 19-25 year olds with Special Educational Needs is best met, and in speaking with a DfE representative in response to your comments, they have advised that 19-25 education provision for Young People with Education, Health and Care Plans should have the core aim of preparing the young person for adult life within an adult environment, and it is felt that Special Schools do not meet this aim.

We have requested that the DfE provide the written form of this guidance for us to publish here, but have been advised that this may take 15 days to arrive.

Plans for future 19-25 provision for Wolverhampton's Young People will need to be part of an informed and realistic strategic plan, involving working partnerships between all stakeholders and agencies on an unprecedented level. 

As a result it is difficult to state a clear timescale for strategic review and future developments, or identify what this might look like in terms of future provision within City and beyond.

As with all future developments within the City, the SEND Partnership Board will ensure that consultation around current issues takes place with all stakeholders including Parents and Young People, and your comments are vital to the process of strategic review that is at its beginning here in Wolverhampton.