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Sinn Féin put further education provision for young people with disabilities on Assembly agenda

7 April, 2008


The Assembly will debate a Sinn Fein motion expressing concern at the lack of further education courses specifically targeted at young people with learning and physical disabilities.

The motion calls on the Assembly to recognise the lack of provision for disabled young people over the age of 19; and calls on the Minister for Employment and Learning Reg Empey to provide sufficient further educational opportunities to ensure that these young people achieve their full potential.

Speaking ahead of the debate co-sponsor Michelle O'Neill said:

" Since this motion has been selected I have been contacted by a number of families who have relayed their own personal accounts and their experiences of the lack of provision. I hope that as a result of this debate we will start to see the much needed change.

"Current provision across the north is piecemeal, with some colleges proactively addressing the needs of some people with a disability and others offering limited or low quality provision. Vulnerable individuals such as those with disabilities who are already marginalised are facing further barriers in attempting to access further education.

"There is also a need for more supported employment opportunities for disabled young people.

"For every £1 invested in supported employment there is a return of £6.17 over a five year period. Thus proving that economically this investment is good for government.

"Any provision of supported employment and further educational provision has to be based on the principle of equality and inclusion because disabled children and adults have the same rights to equality of access to all services, including education, training and employment.

"In meeting a number of disabled young people their families and also representative groups one consistent issue that keeps coming up is the issue of transition - transition referring to the process of a young person moving from childhood into young adulthood.

"This is a time of a lot of change for all young people and their families, involving important decisions about further education, training or employment, citizenship and independent living. Research has shown that this period is more difficult for a young disabled person. At the age of 16 young disabled people have the same career hopes and aspirations as their non-disabled peers. However in early adulthood the experience of disabled and non-disabled young people diverges with regard to education training and employment.

"This is the inequality that needs to be addressed, transition services need to be developed for young people that will support the transition into adult life, actively promote social exclusion, challenge discrimination, promote personal control and choice and encourage interagency partnership and collaboration.

"Disabled young adults are entitled to the same educational opportunities as their peers. At present this is not the case, many families are left without support, direction and feel that there where no opportunities for them.

"At age 16 or age 19 parents are being left in limbo about what's next for their children.

"Children with a moderate learning disability will only be offered compulsory education until the age of 16 and those with a severe learning disability until the age of 19, after that it's a minefield." ENDS

Note to Editors

Further Education Provision motion

That this assembly expresses concern at the lack of further education courses specifically targeted at young people with learning and physical disabilities, recognises the lack of provision for disabled young people over the age of 19; and calls on the minister for employment and learning to provide sufficient further educational opportunities to ensure that these young people achieve their full potential.

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