Charity number (England, Northern Ireland and Wales); SCO41079 (Scotland)

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1 Charity number (England, Northern Ireland and Wales); SCO41079 (Scotland)

2 Cardiff Law School Law in the Real World Applying for a place at a specialist further education college: A guide for Young People aged This guide is for the families and carers of young people in Wales, aged between who have learning disabilities, which cannot be met by their local college, and who attend a specialist further education college. The following sections will tell you about: 1. What the law says. 2. How to apply for a place at a specialist further education college. 3. How your application will be dealt with. 4. What to do if you disagree with the decision. 5. Transport costs. 6. Where to find further information. August

3 1. What the law says. In Wales, the relevant law is set out in the Learning and Skills Act 2000 (LSA 2000). Section 32 LSA 2000 says that the Welsh Government must make sure that the following things are available for young people aged 19 and over: Suitable education (other than higher education). Suitable training. Organised leisure-time occupation connected with education. Organised leisure-time occupation connected with training. Usually, education and training are provided by the young person s local college. If the young person has a learning difficulty additional requirements apply. Section 41(3) LSA 2000 says that: if the young person has a learning difficulty and is aged between 19-25, and the Welsh Government cannot ensure that reasonable facilities for education and training are available at a local college, then the Welsh Government must ensure that a specialist college placement is provided. This means that, if the Welsh Government accepts that the young person s needs cannot be met by their local college, the Welsh Government must make sure that a place at a specialist college is available. This may include a residential placement if that is necessary to meet the young person s needs. 2. How to apply for a place at a specialist further education college. For young people with a statement of special education needs (SEN statement), the planning process should have started at the Year 9 Annual Review (when the young person was aged 14), as the SEN statement should have been extended to plan for the young person s transition from school. August

4 In the last year of school any young person with a SEN statement must have a learning difficulty assessment. The assessment is carried out by Careers Wales, on behalf of the Welsh Government. The assessment is sometimes referred to as a section 140 assessment (as it is carried out under section 140 LSA 2000) or a moving on assessment. When the young person leaves school, the learning and skills plan included in the section 140 assessment replaces the young person s SEN statement. If the young person does not have a SEN statement, then a request for a section 140 assessment can still be made. As part of the section 140 assessment, Careers Wales will gather information regarding the young person s needs. This will include: the SEN statement and transition plan; any Social Services Care Plan; a report from the local college regarding whether the college believes that it can meet the young person s needs; a letter from the young person s school, following the Final Annual Review of the SEN Statement (which should take place in November). The section 140 assessment will set out the young person s education and training needs, and how those needs should be met in the future. There are also things that the family/ carers will need to do if they believe that the local college cannot meet the young person s needs. In particular, they should: request letters of support from any professionals working with the young person (e.g. GP or Consultant); decide which college they would like the young person to attend and ask the college to complete an assessment report. August

5 Some practical things to think about: The section 140 assessment will be completed in the Autumn Term of the young person s final year at school. This means that the family should decide which college they would like the young person to attend and contact that college well before the Autumn Term, so that the college has enough time to complete its assessment report. The family and young person should attend all meetings, particularly the Final Annual Review of the SEN Statement. The family and young person should arrange to visit the local college in the Autumn Term so that the local college has a clear understanding of the young person s needs, and the family and young person know what support the local college can offer. When you visit the local college or attend any meetings you might want to have someone independent with you for support (such as your Mencap Cymru Regional Officer). Make sure that you keep copies of any documents that you give or send to other people as things can get lost! 3. How your application will be dealt with. If the section 140 assessment concludes that the young person s needs cannot be met by the local college, an application for funding for a specialist further education college will be sent to the Welsh Government. The application will be submitted by Careers Wales and must be received by the Welsh Government by no later than 31 st January. Once the application has been submitted it will be considered by the Welsh Government, but it is likely to take several months before a decision is made. Sometimes there is a dispute about whether the local college can meet the young person s needs. Usually a dispute will arise where the family believes that the local college cannot meet the young person s needs, but the local college states that it can. If this happens, it is still possible to ask Careers Wales August

6 to submit the funding application, but it is very important that the family makes sure that the application sets out their views clearly. In these circumstances the family may want to prepare a letter, setting out everything that they want to say about the need for a specialist placement, and submit it with the funding application. The Welsh Government produces a Funding Guide for young people and their families, which explains how a funding application is dealt with. There is a copy of the Guide in Annex 1. The Guide notes that: The Welsh Government may pay all of the learner s placement fee. Sometimes it will pay the course costs and another funding agency, such as Social Services, may be asked to pay the non-educational costs. Where there are identified health and/or medical needs the Local Health Board may pay these costs. This means that, although the Welsh Government has a duty to fund any placement, it can ask other agencies to contribute towards any costs that do not relate to the young person s education. Sometimes the negotiations between the Welsh Government and the other agencies take time and delay the decision. If the Welsh Government cannot reach agreement with other agencies this should not put the young person s placement at risk, as section 41 LSA 2000 says that it is the Welsh Government s responsibility to ensure that the placement is provided regardless of any discussions with other agencies. 4. What to do if you disagree with the decision. If the Welsh Government decides that the young person s needs can be met by the local college, it is possible to challenge that decision. In order to challenge the decision you need to be able to demonstrate that the local college cannot meet the young person s needs. The fact that the young person would prefer to go to a specialist college is not a sufficient reason to challenge the decision. There are several ways in which the Welsh Government s decision can be challenged: Complaints Procedure: it is possible to make a complaint to the Welsh Government about their decision. The complaint will be investigated by August

7 someone other than the person who made the decision, and it will usually be dealt with within 20 working days. Public Services Ombudsman for Wales: the Ombudsman is an independent person who has a legal power to review decisions made by public bodies in Wales. Before you can ask the Ombudsman to investigate you will usually need to have already made a formal complaint using the Welsh Government s complaints procedure. Unfortunately, it can take many months for the Ombudsman to complete his investigation. This can cause problems as it may mean that the investigation is not completed before the young person is due to start at college. If you make a complaint to the Ombudsman you should point out that the investigation is urgent, and ask if the investigation can be expedited. Judicial Review: this is a legal process which allows the court to review a decision by a public body. If the court decides that the way in which the decision was taken was wrong in some way (e.g. because important information was not taken into account), the court can order that the decision-making process is undertaken again. Judicial review is a complex process and must be started within 3 months of the decision you are disputing. It is important to get legal advice from a solicitor regarding whether you have grounds for judicial review, and whether you can get legal aid to cover the costs involved. There is a list of useful websites in the Where to find further information section of this guide, which will help you to pursue any complaint. 5. Transport costs. If the Welsh Government agrees to fund a placement at a specialist education college, it will not pay the costs of transport to and from college. However, it may be possible to obtain free or subsidised transport from the local authority as Welsh local authorities are encouraged to provide transport support to disabled students until at least the age of 21, and ideally up to age 25. To find out if you are eligible for free or subsidised transport costs you should contact the education department of your local authority or speak to the student support officer at your school or college. August

8 6. Where to find further information. Here are some useful websites: Organisation Careers Wales (funding advice for disabled students) Law Society (will help you find a solicitor in your area) Public Services Ombudsman (investigates complaints about public bodies in Wales) SNAP Cymru (provides advice to young people with additional learning needs and their families) Useful People (information regarding Special Educational/Additional Learning Needs Policy in Wales) Welsh Government (complaints procedure) Website https://usefulpeople.wordpress.com/ https://secure.gov.wales/contact_us/makeacomp laint/complaintspolicy/?lang=en Future Changes The Welsh Government plans to transfer funding for specialist education colleges to local authorities, but this is not expected to happen before the financial year 2017/18. Therefore, the information contained in this guide should remain applicable for all funding applications made up to an including 31 st January August

9 Annex 1 WELSH GOVERNMENT POST-16 FUNDING GUIDE FOR LEARNERS AND PARENTS FUNDING FOR LEARNERS WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES AND/OR DISABILITIES AT COLLEGES OF FURTHER EDUCATION 1. FURTHER EDUCATION COLLEGES IN WALES The Welsh Government funds a range of further education courses in Wales. Welsh Further Education colleges offer a wide range of courses which are accessible on a day basis and most offer special courses or help for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The Welsh Government makes additional funding available to local colleges in order to help them make their provision accessible for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Each college issues information on the courses it provides and the support it offers. College staff, learners and careers advisers in Careers Wales are also a source of valuable information. A visit to the college is very important to finding out how the college can best help the learner in his/her studies. The local Careers Wales adviser can help in arranging these visits. 2. THE LEARNING AND SKILLS PLAN The Learning and Skills Plan is written by the Careers Wales adviser, on behalf of Welsh Ministers, in the learner s last year at school. The Plan is based on all available evidence about the learner s needs and full consideration of local options available to meet those needs. The Plan will be informed by information regarding the support that local colleges and other local agencies can put in place to meet the learner s individual needs. The Learning and Skills Plan sets out the learner s individual education and training needs and identifies college provision which is realistic and suitable to meet the learner s individual needs. 3. SPECIALIST COLLEGES Nearly all learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities can go to their local August

10 college. A very small number have needs which their local college cannot meet and, if the learner is aged between 16 and 25, the Welsh Government may pay for them to undertake a course at a specialist college. This may include residential provision where it is necessary to meet the learner s needs. The duties and powers of the Welsh Government to fund individual learners at specialist colleges are set out in the Learning and Skills Act APPLICATION FOR SPECIALIST COLLEGE PROVISION Where no local college is able to meet a learner s needs, the Careers Adviser will have information on how to apply for a place at a specialist college and how to get funding. The Careers Adviser will complete a funding application form and send it to the Welsh Government by 31 January in order to best ensure a decision (one way or the other) in time for a September start. The application form is sent with additional information which will include the Learning and Skills Plan, a copy of the learner s statement of special educational needs, the transition plan and minutes of annual reviews, evidence that the local college cannot meet the learner s needs and all other relevant information. In some instances, the Welsh Government may need to ask for more information; for example a report from an educational psychologist or other professional assessments. 3.2 DECISION MAKING The Welsh Government will carefully examine the application to decide if, according to the Welsh Government s criteria and according to the law, the learner s place at a specialist college should be funded. In deciding whether it can pay for a learner to attend a specialist college the Welsh Government must be satisfied that there are no adequate facilities at general further education colleges locally which are suitable to meet the learner s individual needs. Learner/parent choice or preference is in itself insufficient to fulfil the criteria specified in the legislation for residential/specialist provision. The Welsh Government may pay all of the learner s placement fee. Sometimes it will pay the course costs and another funding agency, such as Social Services, may be asked to pay the non-educational costs. Where there are identified health and/or medical needs the Local Health Board may pay these costs. The Welsh Government will write to the learner or his/her parents/carers directly to inform them of the decision. There may be instances where, on the basis of information submitted, the Welsh Government may decide not to fund a placement. August

11 The decision not to fund will be confirmed in writing to the learner and his/her representative, the college and careers adviser. If you believe you have suffered as a result of maladministration or service failure by the Welsh Government, the option is open to you to make a complaint, in accordance outlined in the Welsh Government s Code of Practice on Complaints (the Code). The Code is available online, by post, or on request. The Code, and details of how to complain are on our website at: An offer of a placement by a college or any officer of an organisation other than the Welsh Government is not a guarantee of funding. The Welsh Government will need to be sure that the chosen course is one which can be funded and will also need to be satisfied that the learner s support needs can/cannot be met at a local college. The Welsh Government takes the view that a course of further education usually takes two years to complete but in some cases a third year might be granted, in order for the learner to complete his/her programme of study. Funding is agreed annually to the end of the academic year and funding into the second year of a learner s course depends on his/her progress and is subject to review. 4. TRANSPORT You and your family are responsible for arranging transport from home to college. However, you may wish to consider contacting your local education authority to establish whether they are able to offer assistance with transport. 5. MORE INFORMATION For additional advice about going to college, or about particular needs, Snap Cymru can be contacted at: SNAP Cymru 10 Coopers Yard Curran Cardiff CF10 5NB Helpline: Website: August

12 For More Information you can also contact: The Wales Learning Disability Helpline on Or August

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