Stop this cash squeeze

24th June 2005 at 01:00
Student Phillip Archer, who has learning problems, says the Government must think again about cutting classes for people with learning disabilities: I have mild, moderate learning disabilities which affect my ability to communicate with people.

I study visual arts, including painting, and I have had sessions which help me to look at my emotional abilities. They have also helped me to develop my skills at speaking in public.

From September, I will still have a place at my north London college. This is because people with disabilities are being divided into different groups - those like me with mild, moderate disabilities and those who have complex learning difficulties.

It is those with complex learning difficulties who will not be getting a place in September.

Over the past four years, I have come to know the students that go to Creative Connections, where I study, in Barnet, and I find the changes which they are facing very worrying.

This should not be happening in the world we live in today. This government should not be excluding people who have profound and complex learning difficulties.

I feel that these people have the right to be going to Creative Connections, which is part of the Hampstead Garden Suburb institute, from September. The Government should not be messing about with the funding that they give to this type of education.

Let's be clear. A lot of people are going to suffer, not just the students that I happen to know at Creative Connections.

The Learning and Skills Council has to change this decision (to leave some types of learning for the disabled outside its list of priorities) and allow the work which is going on with this kind of student to continue.

Despite what the LSC might say, this work is a priority.

If these decisions about priorities are not changed, then this Government will be responsible for the human cost of excluded people with very serious problems.

The work that Creative Connections does with people with learning difficulties is not just about teaching.

They also support individuals and build friendships and strong relationships which stay with them in their everyday lives.

By making these cuts, the Government is putting the squeeze on the health system and the other services which help us. It is important that every one of us, who knows how important this work is, makes the effort to speak up and does not let the Government get away with it.

I think that the Government kept quiet about the situation politically to get back in power, because it said nothing and this news has come like a bombshell after the election.

This change in policy towards people with complex learning difficulties is discriminating against them.

In March 2001, the Government published Valuing People, a new strategy for learning disability for the 21st century.

In the document, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, says the white paper "shows how we will meet this commitment (to people with learning disabilities) by working closely with councils, the health service, voluntary organisations and most importantly with people with learning disabilities and their families to provide new opportunities for those with learning disabilities to lead full and active lives".

If these cuts are going to happen, they might as well tear up the white paper and throw it in the bin.

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