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Challenges in further and higher education for people with disabilities

Human rights law firm Leigh Day recently hosted a seminar given by barristers from Hardwicke Building.

Photo: istock

21 January 2009

Alison Millar, partner in the human rights team at Leigh Day, recently hosted a seminar at the firm on the subject of the problems faced by people with disabilities who are looking to enter further and higher education. Alison has represented a number of clients with disabilities who have faced discrimination and funding problems when they have tried to extend their training or education beyond the age of 18.

Two barristers from Hardwicke Building, Fiona Scolding and Denis Edwards, contributed to the discussion that examined two areas.

Funding

The first is the problem of funding. People with special educational needs often struggle to obtain funding for their higher education. Funding is controlled by the Learning Skills Council (LSC) and it usually only funds courses provided by institutions who have registered with it. Many specialist education providers are not registered with the LSC, many because the funding criteria set by the LSC is very tough and partly because the LSC will shortly be disbanded. This means it is increasingly difficult to obtain funding for courses at specialist residential colleges. Leigh Day & Co lawyers are aware from their past experience that this is of great concern to parents who seek a seamless transition from the special school to further education for their children.

It is also possible to obtain funding for higher education from local authorities and from Primary Care Trusts. However there can be conflict between funding providers if, for example, a local authority believes that the LSC should be funding a placement that is educational in nature. Sometimes a judicial review can be the only remedy open to families to enforce the statutory duties of a potential funding authority.

Disability discrimination

The seminar also looked at the problems of disability discrimination for potential students in higher and further education. Public bodies in education have a duties under the Disability Discrimination Act that include promoting disability equality and not discriminating on the grounds of disability. The only possible exemptions to these duties are on the grounds of student ability and competence for the proposed course.

Leigh Day are experienced in bringing disability discrimination claims. Please contact one of our lawyers on 020 7650 1200 for more information.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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