Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Education Department and My Hope of Going to College #TBofBTT

by @Becca_Boot

Someone is stopping me from going to college; someone is putting up barriers for me - barriers I cannot cross.

It’s not the college, they have been wonderful, and they’ve done everything they can to help. It’s not my classmates, they’ve been wonderful too. It’s not my parents, they want me to go. It’s the local authority’s education department. By not allowing me funding for transport or the transport itself they have completely stopped me from being able to go college.

I enrolled into college last September on a photography course I was using my mobility scooter on the buses to get to college. College arranged for the support I needed and I was doing well in my work. Until November came, in November my condition deteriorated. In November I came completely off my legs, my arms were no longer strong enough to use my scooter and I can’t self propel so with the wheelchair my ability to use public transport alone disappeared.

When I was healthy enough to return to my college course we looked into ways of getting me there and back - my parents couldn’t do it - they have jobs to go to. A taxi would cost £15 each way, being a 3 day a week course that would be £90, we can’t afford that. We tried the ring&ride but it was too unpredictable they have one bus that will cross local borders and if you ring up even 10 minutes after the lines open then there’s a very high chance you’ll have lost your slot.

So we spoke to the relevant authorities and found out that as I am under 18 this was the realm of the education department (run as it happens by serco) like any sensible set of people we wrote them a letter outlining my condition and why exactly I needed help with transport.

A while later we got a letter back - saying in plain English that I couldn’t have help with transport because 1. I do not have a statement of special needs (statement) 2. I’m over 16. We sent an appeal but to no avail. They said basically the same thing “I didn’t receive help with transport when I was in compulsory education” Apparently it didn’t matter that I lived round the corner from school and my school was negligent and if I were in compulsory education I would now be statemented.

Rounds of appeals and talking to the local MP and Councillors have got me nowhere. Now it’s looking like doing the course I so loved is something I am simply not going to be able to do. I was foolish for even thinking I could though right? Did I forget that to be disabled and get on in life you either have to be rich or a child (under the age of 16).
It seems that although they say they want more people to carry on into 16 - 18 education and especially want disabled students to do so, even dare I say it they even want us to excel in it they won’t help anyone over the age of 16… Now who sees the flaw in that plan?

It does look a lot like the education department has forgotten that people can become disabled quite suddenly, or that disabilities can worsen, or how ridiculously difficult it is to get a statement. Or perhaps it might just be that where they can help it they don’t want to help disabled students at all. After all, that does cost them money.


DeusExMacintosh said...

Sorry to hear this Becca, I know EXACTLY how you feel and found I had the same problem. The train company refuses to carry my scooter (they say its "too large" but I can get on and off no problems and park it in the bicycle space without assistance) and the bus stop is too far from the campus buildings for me to use a walker, but as an FE college isn't "compulsory education" the transport support available is... um, nil! (Unless I spend £5000+ on an electric wheelchair in addition to my scooter.)

Apparently we're supposed to study with the Open University (which is fine if you want a degree - their courses are excellent - but if you're looking for something a little more "hands on", you're stuffed. I'm now looking at courses at the local art college (because it's across the road not because I'm into Art).

If you're interested in vocational courses with a view to employment you could also consider the Queen Elizabeth Foundation who have a residential training college in Surrey for people with disabilities.

Mobility Scooter Batteries said...

It just sounds like excuses from them, they just don't want to try because it will be too much bother for them.

Anonymous said...

Have you spoken to connections or have a connexions worker? My son was in exactly the same situation as you with lack of funding for travelling to college.

We tried everywhere to get funding for the 4 mile trip he needed daily but lost all hope. He had a meeting with his connections worker and told her that due to his funding being stopped by the local council he would not be able to finish his courses.

She told him she would try and help. Two weeks later he had confirmation that they will fund his travel for the next two years. Apparently they have funds to use in a discretionary way which they accessed for him. I do hope they can help you or may be able to direct you to somewhere that can.

Alternatively have you tried for a Disabled student grant. They can assess you and if they find you need help to study they will try and arrange help to overcome any barriers you face to studying. My son was told about that by his connections worker and they have supplied him with a p.c and special software to help him with his studies. They also told him they would have helped with his travelling costs if he hadnt sorted it out. It is all worth looking into as it is not widely published. Good Luck : )

Visually Impaired said...

I feel really sorry for you. Keep your chin up and keep trying don't take no for an answer. Keep visiting your MP, Write to or visit your M.E.P, Goto specific disability charities and ask them to interject on your behalf.

In short make yourself a pain in the ass. They will eventually get sick of seeing you and hopefully do something., On another note have you thought about going to a newspaper public interewst or your local regional news station, for instance bbc west midlands for our regional news o central news it is a public interest story and this government wants to be seen to be an enabler use it. see if you can embarras people.

I will also be linking to you on my blog


zimmie said...


Dont know if link will work, but its worth a look

Robert said...

Zimmie, the new rules do not count stick Crutches or wheelchairs, unless your unable to propel your own wheelchair. If you walk into the ESA WCA medical if you live alone, if you have no carer all counts towards you being able to look after your self. I suspect if he walks into a tribunal on his own they will also look at how he is able to do this if he is as ill as he says.

People need to ensure they learn about the new ESA medical and WCA before going, never ever go on your own.

About College it's a shame that in England you have a Tory Government and to be honest a New labour one which has done so much to hurt people with disabilities, in Wales EMA is staying, my grandson now has free bus travel, but if he had problems with a bus then a taxi would have been found for him.

It does look like the fight to get equality means we are now seen as being equal so equal we are being told we can do it our selves.