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Council cuts put hundreds of jobs under threat at Lincolnshire charity

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: March 27, 2012

  • Cuts: Lincolnshire County Council has slashed the number of disabled students it refers to the Linkage Community Trust

  • Meeting needs: Interim director of children’s services Debbie Barnes

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Hundreds of jobs are under threat at a Lincolnshire charity.

Linkage Community Trust, which provides further education and employment services for people with learning disabilities, say up to 350 of its staff could be made redundant this year.

It comes after Lincolnshire County Council slashed the number of disabled students it refers there.

This year the local authority has sent just one Lincolnshire student to Linkage – compared to 30 last year.

The responsibility for deciding which students are sent to specialist colleges rests with county councils.

Linkage says while it has seen a reduction in referrals from other authorities around the country, none have been 'as dramatic a slump' as the cull in this county.

Educating a student at Linkage costs an average of £100,000 a year.

The loss of income means the charity says it now needs to save £3.8 million.

Linkage chairman Michael Oliver said: "I am deeply saddened that excellent staff who are committed to young learning disabled people will lose their jobs, and that young learning disabled people are being denied the opportunity of experiencing the benefits of a Linkage further education.

"We must work with all concerned to find a way forward and we would particularly like to meet with local authorities."

Historically, more than a quarter of the college's intake came from Lincolnshire.

But that figure will be significantly reduced following the changes.

While the majority of redundancies will be made across Linkage's three education campuses, job losses will also affect staff in the charity's 57 other facilities – residential care units and support centres.

The charity employs 900 people overall – 450 in education centres.

Jane Howson, business development director at Linkage said: "Linkage was set up for young disabled people in Lincolnshire and now local people are missing out because of our county council."

Parent Sue Thompson has been trying to get her 18-year-old daughter Lucy, who suffers from global delay, into Linkage. "We live in Willoughby, near Sleaford, and it looks like Lucy will have to go the mainstream college in Grantham.

"It's horrendous because my daughter would be much better off at Linkage. They are fantastic at teaching young disabled people everyday skills and that's exactly what Lucy needs.

"It's absolutely essential she attends Linkage but it feels like all our efforts are being blocked."

Debbie Barnes, interim director of children's services at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "We continue to work with all local providers, including the Linkage Community Trust, to ensure that the wide-ranging needs of young people with learning difficulties or disabilities can be met close to their home.

"Young people continue to be referred to Linkage when they are the most appropriate and local provider that can meet their needs."

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  • chafis  |  May 17 2012, 12:03PM

    I was previously employed at Linkage college and took redundancy last year and would like to comment that the ball park figure of £100,000 is totally wrong and that I know this as fact, as I worked within the education sector of Linkage. The majority of young peoples funding ranges from approx £36,000 per annum and varies from student to student,and it is only the students with the most complex of behaviours and learning disabilities that would come near to that figure of £100,000. People need to get their facts right before misleading the general public into thinking that the figure in this article is the norm. Linkage is a fantastic facility and if people could see the difference in these young people they would not sit at home making judgements and god forbid if any of their children/ grandchildren should in the future have any form of learning disability they would realise the excellent provision they provide. You all pay for young people to go to college etc why should these young people be any different to them. They should have the same choices as everybody else in society why should they be exempt.

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  • XNY556  |  April 04 2012, 6:37PM

    Thanks for the clarification. You make some valid points - hopefully someone will see sense.

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  • freewillsue  |  April 04 2012, 6:12PM

    £100,000 sounds a lot to send someone like my 19 year old autistic son Lawrence to a specialist college in these hard times. But by attending this type of residential college for just one year Lawrence will have learnt how to live independantly from his family and how to make friendships to last him into his adult life and more importantly how to get a job and become a tax payer. Without his placement Lawrence probably will not achieve any of above and be on benefits and need support care for the rest of his life - which could easily be another 60 or 70 years. Does £100.000 sound expensive now when you calculate how much a life time of care on the State would work out? If these specialist colleges go under then the skills they have gained to to help save these otherwise lost lives from a life long sentances of isolation and just waiting for Goddo will be lost too. I say it loud and I say it clear - Lincolnshire Council and any able bodied person who thinks it is justified to deny these vulnerable young disabled people this one vital chance to lead a near normal independant life as possible should hang their heads in deep shame.

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  • XNY556  |  March 27 2012, 8:24PM

    ! am sympathetic to the situation of people losing jobs, but surely £100,000 per student cannot be correct?

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  • Saxilby_Mick  |  March 27 2012, 4:29PM

    If it costs £100,000 per pear per child then the County Council are quite right to review how many children they send here. Presumably there must be at least two staff per pupil to justify those sort of costs!

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