KATHRYN Rudd, Principal of the National Star College, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to re-think funding cuts for young people with disabilities. Here is a copy of her letter.
Dear Mr Cameron,
How could we have not been moved when you spoke so tenderly about your son Ivan in your closing speech at the Conservative conference?
Every parent who has a child with disabilities would have empathised when you said:
"When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair, not the boy."
Sadly that is more the norm than the exception. Young people with complex disabilities are so easily written off, pigeon-holed with what they can't do rather than what they can.
As you said the Paralympics was an inspiration to all of us, to see people achieve their full potential regardless of disability. At the National Star College we are dedicated to helping all our students recognise their potential, to empower to make their own choices and to live fulfilling lives – to the best of their abilities. Our staff are specialists and both Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have ranked the college as outstanding.
Tragically, funding changes which come into effect next year – funding changes your government approved Mr Cameron – will jeopardise that very support needed by young people with disabilities.
From 2013, funding will come from local authority pots, rather than directly from a central fund. It will not be ring-fenced.
Every local authority will make its own decisions on how to spend that money. Each authority is developing its own set of criteria and guidelines. Further education for young people with disabilities is now a postcode lottery.
While able-bodied teenagers have the freedom to choose where they go for further education, those with disabilities are seeing their choices disappear. The choice to attend a specialist college is slipping away.
As one mother who fought to send her 18-year-old son to the National Star College said: "The alternative was a day care centre for people from 18 to 80. He will never be Stephen Hawking but I believe he still has more potential to discover."
Mr Cameron you say you believe people now would see your boy and not the chair.
That was not the case for this mother or others like her. The local authority did not see her beloved Joe – it only saw the chair.
Help us ensure the legacy of the Paralympics lives on. Please reconsider the funding changes and what it will mean to young people.
Young people with disabilities do not want sympathy or pity. They simply want the freedom to choose what is best for them – and to live their own lives."