'He should have the choice to go to college'

11th April 1997 at 01:00
The case of 20-year-old Robert Parkinson illustrates the gap between needs and actual provision for young adults with learning difficulties.

Robert, who suffers from cerebral palsy and has severe learning difficulties, left special school and was hoping to go to Pengwern College.

His local authority, Bradford Council, had agreed to pay a third of the Pounds 30,000 annual fees of the MENCAP-run college if the Further Education Funding Council made up the difference.

The court, however, ruled that the FEFC were not legally obliged to pay for his further education.

Since the ruling last year, Robert has been attending a council-run day centre. Barristers acting for the family are currently seeking leave to appeal against the ruling and may take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Robert's mother Karen said the council have "pulled out all the stops" to look after Robert, including giving him physiotherapy and speech therapy sessions. "But the principle is still the same. He should have the choice to go to college and we feel it would benefit him. He's not getting the continual care that he would get at college.

"Losing the case was a huge setback for us. Robert should have the opportunity that other young people have to go to college when they leave school. We will keep fighting it until we get a change in the legislation."

The FEFC said that, until there is a change in the law, their hands are tied. "It's obviously not a satisfactory position," said the FEFC's Patricia Stubbs. "But the judge confirmed that we cannot fund provision for a student such as Robert."

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