Cash shortfalls jeopardise service for young people with learning difficulties

The success of a service designed to increase the independence
of young people with learning difficulties by providing them with
training or employment opportunities, could be jeopardised unless
more money is made available, writes Sally

Roger Allen, head of the young people’s unit at the east
of England government office, told delegates at a national
conference on learning difficulties in Norwich, that many chief
executives of local Connexions branches had expressed “concern
about the resource implications” of delivering the service to young
people with learning difficulties.

Margaret Palmer, a careers service worker supporting the
development of Connexions in the eastern region, added that the
specific responsibilities of personal advisers to young people with
learning difficulties were “very resource intensive”.

Many personal advisors, who provide one-to-one support to all
young people, were struggling to deliver these specific
responsibilities and to find the time to attend review meetings,
Palmer said.

Review meetings to plan for a child’s future beyond
compulsory schooling became mandatory from January this year for
all children with a special needs statement. But Palmer said they
were felt to be an unnecessary task creating extra work for
personal advisers, because young people with learning difficulties
tended to stay in education until they were 19 rather than 16 so
plans were being discussed “several years too early”.

Connexions services are expected to work with people with
learning difficulties until they are 25, but research into a
handful of local schemes had found that many staff lacked the
skills to deal with people with learning difficulties and more
money was needed to train them, Palmer said.

Lack of awareness of learning difficulties was leading some
personal advisers to have very low expectations of some young
people’s abilities to achieve in work or training.

Other problems identified by the research were a lack of clarity
over the role of the personal adviser, who too often became
responsible for plugging the “chasm” between Connexions and social
services, and a feeling that personal advisers were “ineffective”
because they had no direct access to funding.

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