Up to 350 jobs at risk at special needs college

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A CHARITY which runs a further education college for young people with learning difficulties has warned that up to 350 jobs are at risk as a result of a major fall in the number of students being referred to it by councils.

The Linkage Community Trust, which has a campus in Grimsby, says it now needs to save £3.8m next year because of the drop in student numbers.

Between 300 and 350 staff are expected to be made redundant depending on how part-time roles are axed.

The Yorkshire Post reported earlier this year that leaders of post-16 special needs colleges across the region were warning that councils who make decisions over what provision a student needs were not making referrals to them.

Principals claim councils are now reluctant to agree to lengthy placements at specialist providers because these town halls are about to be given the budget for educating people with learning difficulties between the ages of 16 and 25. At present, the placements are funded nationally.

Linkage says it has been hard hit by the decisions of Lincolnshire County Council which traditionally provides more than a quarter of its intake of students but this year has only approved one to start there. The charity has 138 residential learners and 20 day learners spread across two campuses at present.

Linkage chairman Michael Oliver said: “I am deeply saddened that excellent staff who are committed to young learning disabled people will lose their jobs, and that young learning disabled people are being denied the opportunity of experiencing the benefits of a Linkage further education. We must work with all concerned to find a way forward and we would particularly like to meet with local authorities”.

Lincolnshire County Council interim director of children’s services Debbie Barnes, said: “We continue to work with all local providers, including the Linkage Community Trust, to ensure that the wide-ranging needs of young people with learning difficulties or disabilities can be met close to their home. Young people continue to be referred to Linkage when they are the most appropriate and local provider that can meet their needs.”