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Fresh hope of progress for disabled

Gordon Brown has been in office for barely five minutes and already we have evidence that this government is finally waking up to further education's most urgent problem the way it deals with our most vulnerable students.

Of course, the interdepartmental negotiations which have given rise to the new entitlement for younger people with disabilities have been under way for some time.

Now the ministers responsible for health, education and work and pensions have decided to act and agreed at least in principle that there will be no more buck-passing over provision for those with disabilities.

But questions remain to be answered including the level of funding which will be available to make a reality of offering genuine education and training choices.

There will still be the question of whether students are being adequately assessed in terms of whether they should be focusing on living skills or training for employment.

We have not been shy about highlighting the deficiencies of the funding regime where this has been proved to cause anxiety for some of these students in specialist colleges, in general further education and in community education.

As we have identified, funding has often been restricted quite unintentionally, it could be argued simply for the lack of agreement about where to draw the line between education, health and social service support, and how costs should be shared.

It is an issue we will continue to watch with great care because we know this provision is close to the hearts of our our readers and part of their vision of what FE is about.

But as events unfold, there is real cause for optimism that the main stumbling block to progress the lack of coordination between different parts of government has finally been removed.

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