Budget cut puts brain injury unit under threat

5th March 2010 at 00:00
A leading centre that helps brain injury patients regain their skills is under threat despite a promise that provision for people with learning difficulties would be protected from cuts

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has pledged pound;140,000 to try to save South Worcestershire College's Acquired Brain Injury Unit, but questions remain over whether the college will even be able to claim the money.

With a pound;550,000 cut to its adult education budget - about a quarter of the total - the college was forced to plan the closure of the brain injury unit because it does not provide priority qualifications that attract funding.

Instead, clients, who range from elderly people who have suffered strokes to victims of accidents, relearn communication and motor skills.

It is the only dedicated facility of its kind for adults in the country.

Principal Michael O'Brien said that in order to access the new funding, he needs to demonstrate that the learning fits within one of the priority areas of basic skills, full level-two and level-three qualifications and some level-four provision.

He said: "My impression is decisions are made in Whitehall in a very sweeping way and left to local officers to implement.

"And the local officers say their hands are tied."

Last year, the college was funded with pound;225,000, so Mr O'Brien said even pound;140,000 would mean reducing what the unit offers.

Peter Luff, Conservative MP for the area and chairman of the Commons business, innovation and skills committee, said: "We can't have arguments about who pays for what.

These very vulnerable people can be made whole again, their lives can be repaired. We have a moral duty to get these people back on their feet."

A spokeswoman for the LSC said its offer of additional funding should secure the unit's future.

She said: "In line with the skills investment strategy, no provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities will be affected in this case."

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