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Learning Difficulties

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what provision there is for young people leaving Moderate Learning Difficulty schools in Northern Ireland; what research on this subject has been carried out or is planned; and when it is intended to publish such research. [108877]

Special education legislation imposes duties on Education and Library Boards (ELBs) in the planning for a young person's transition to adult life. The Department of Education's Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs provides further advice on the process. ELBs are required to inform Health and Social Services (HSS) trusts up to a year in advance of a young person, with a Statement of Special Educational Needs, leaving school.The first and subsequent annual reviews of a Statement of Special Educational Needs after a young person's 14th birthday should involve the agencies that will play a major role during the post school years, including the relevant HSS Trust and the Department for Employment and Learning's Careers Service, so that all options for further education, training and employment are given serious consideration. Following the meeting the ELB will prepare a transition plan, in order to plan coherently for the young person's transition to adult life. The plan is circulated to the parents, the principal and all other relevant partners.A research project entitled "Provision for Pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties", funded by the five ELBs is being undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). It is currently in its third year and it is hoped to publish its findings by early 2004. The main focus of this research is the current provision for MLD pupils, but the researchers will also endeavour to track the pupils' first destinations on leaving school.

allocated to North Belfast in each year since 1997. [105915]

The amount of mainstream EU Programmes and special EU Initiatives money allocated1 to North Belfast since 1997 was:

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what after schools provision there is in Northern Ireland for young people with Moderate Learning Difficulties; and what assessment he has made of the level of provision. [108878]

After schools provision in Northern Ireland for young people with Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) spans a number of areas and departments.The Department for Health and Social Services and Public Safety's Priorities for Action in 2002–03 require Health Boards and Trusts to continue to expand provision of day care and respite places for people with a learning difficulty. Moreover, all four Health and Social Services Boards have identified the development of day care services as a priority area, but funding has been a limiting factor.The Department for Employment and Learning's (DEL) Disablement Advisory Service, in conjunction with the Careers Service, provides such young people with help to assist them access appropriate employment and learning after school. There is a range of programmes including "Access t o Work", "Employment Support", "Job Introduction Scheme" and "New Deal for Disabled People". Special Needs Careers Officers provide careers information and guidance services both at school and when the young person has left school to ensure that appropriate choices have been made and that the young person has settled into his/her next destination. The officers continue to provide support to those young people who have not secured a placement in education, training or employment on leaving school.Should it be considered appropriate, provision is also available through Jobskills and the statutory Further Education sector. Although Jobskills is aimed mainly at 16 and 17-year-old school leavers, young people with disabilities can enter the programme up to their 22nd birthday. DEL has put in place a range of initiatives and financial support mechanisms, in further education, which promote access for young people with MLD, including specific support for individuals.

In September 2002 the then Ministers for Education, Employment and Learning and Health, Social Services and Public Safety convened a meeting to discuss the issue of transition from full-time education to adulthood for young people with learning disabilities. A working group, chaired by the Department of Education and comprising officials from the relevant departments, was established to consider what could be done to better meet the needs of these young people. Work is ongoing.