A charity that supported disabled FE students has closed down due to financial difficulties.
The organisation, Skill, has ceased operating after its board of trustees decided it was "no longer viable to keep the charity open".
Established in 1974, Skill campaigned for opportunities for over-16s with physical, learning and mental health disabilities to stay in learning and gain employment.
According to its latest set of accounts, the organisation had 23 employees and 100 volunteers. It offered a free helpline for disabled people, lobbied the Government about relevant issues in the sector, and provided publications, seminars and conferences for members.
An email was sent out to staff, supporters and donors last week informing them of the news, which was greeted with dismay. One posted on Facebook: "Can't believe that Skill has ceased to operate. It's a terrible loss."
"What a painful loss and an awful gap," another added.
Peter Little, chairman of Skill's board of trustees, agreed. "This is a sad day for all of us," he said. "We had recently appointed an outstanding new chief executive and agreed a clear strategy to reduce our costs and turn around our finances but, in the end, time was against us."
Yola Jacobsen, programme manager at adult education body Niace, described the demise of the charity as a "great loss to learners, staff and providers in the learning and skills sector", and paid tribute to its staff.
"Skill has worked hard to promote equality for disabled people in education, training and employment, working closely with Niace on policy work and many projects and events. There is all the more reason now to take forward this important work, particularly in these challenging times," she said.
A statement from Skill, which described itself as "the only pan-disability charity that focuses on promoting equality for disabled people in education, training and employment", said: "It is hoped that others may step in to fill the gap this has left in the support available."
Skill also offered training on how to comply with disability legislation.
Right to learn
Just two months ago, Skill launched the Diversity in Apprenticeships scheme to encourage more disabled young people to take up work-based learning. It was aiming to find 350 new recruits by March 2012.
The charity also lobbied hard to ensure that the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 gave all "suitably qualified" 16 to 18- year-olds - including disabled youngsters without formal qualifications - the entitlement to an apprenticeship.
"This should give those disabled people who have the competencies but not the qualifications an opportunity to take up their entitlement," Skill said.