Courses for adults with learning difficulties are being cut across England due to government training priorities, it has emerged this week.
Further education leaders have said the government's emphasis on courses leading to level 2 qualifications - equivalent to GCSE - has been reflected in funding from the Learning and Skills Council, which plans and funds further education.
As a result some courses for adults with learning difficulties which do not meet this requirement have been dropped by colleges.
The situation is compounded by the prioritisation of education for 16-18 year olds in 2006-7, leading to cuts in adult education budgets.
Julian Gravatt, director of funding and development at the Association of Colleges, said: "The government has stated clearly that its priority is to improve the skills of the workforce and its funding reflects this policy.
"Regrettably this means that some colleges do not have funding available for courses - including those serving students with disabilities - that fall outside these targets."
An LSC spokesperson said that some of the affected courses for adults with learning difficulties provide a significant element of day care, and may be better funded by councils or the NHS.
But national director of learning Melanie Hunt said that while the colleges faced a reduced budget for adult education, good quality provision for adults with learning difficulties was "a priority", a point it had reasserted in a letter to colleges in June.
Although the LSC sent out a questionnaire about provision to its regional offices in July, Mencap head of policy and campaigns David Congdon said the issue should have been picked up much earlier.
He said: "The government and the LSC should have been monitoring this situation very thoroughly and they haven't been."
South Trafford College announced in June that about 80 adults with learning difficulties were set to be affected by the withdrawal of courses in the 2006-7 academic year due to the government's funding priorities. The local council has since managed to come to an agreement with the LSC to set up alternative courses for the group at the college but they are only temporary.
Learning and Skills Council
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