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Home > News > February 2006 > 28-Feb-2006

ALI calls for greater recognition of learners with disabilities in Government Policy

Inadequate training and support is preventing people with disabilities from achieving their potential in the workplace, according to a report published yesterday by the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI).

The ALI is calling for the Government to do more to ensure that learners with disabilities experience better quality training, to improve their prospects of gaining meaningful employment.

The ALI report, 'Greater Expectations: provision for learners with disabilities', says that on the whole, training for adult learners with disabilities is costly, fragmented, lacks expertise and does not provide value for money.

According to the report, there is lack of coherence between education and funding streams and confusion about responsibility for social and health care.

The report also says that training providers and further education colleges need to raise their expectations of what the UK's disabled learners can achieve.

David Sherlock, chief inspector of adult learning in England, said: "This country has both an ageing population and a falling population of working age. Disabled people have an important contribution to make to our economy - but they are not being given the support or guidance to help them make the most of the opportunities.

"We have found that the overall system for training adults with disabilities is not good enough. All too often the curriculum for learners with disabilities does not prepare them adequately with skills to enable them to participate in the labour market."

Bert Massie, chairman of the Disability Rights Commission said: "This is a wake-up call for the adult learning sector. Public money is being wasted because of a lazy fatalism about what disabled people can achieve.

"We can no longer keep this large group of adults in a state of permanent, expensive but ineffective training. We must ratchet up our expectations of disabled people and those with long term health conditions, and what we hope they will have of themselves."

David Sherlock added: "Recent developments show that the Government is willing to address the problem. Amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act, for example, mean the onus is on public sector bodies to promote disability equality. A report from the Cabinet Office last year also signalled changes to the current situation. But there is still much that can be done."

The ALI has made a number of recommendations to the Government to tackle the shortcomings. These include:

* Funding to be targeted on education and training programmes that encourage learners, for whom it is appropriate, to develop work skills by participating in the work-place, rather than just in the classroom

* More training to be available nationally to help staff provide specialist assistance that encourages independence and autonomy among learners

* Specialist technology, and interventions such as speech and language therapy to be more widely available for learners with complex needs

* Better coordination between agencies such as social care and health, and between different funding bodies, to help learners achieve longer term goals, and to ensure equity of access to high quality training and education

* The marketing of apprenticeship schemes should clearly signal that learners with disabilities are welcome

Seven Inspectors at the ALI reviewed the current learning provision for adult learners with disabilities between July and September 2006.

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