A MOTHER is anxiously awaiting the outcome of a crucial meeting that will decide whether council funding will enable her disabled son to complete another year at the specialist school that ‘changed his life’.
Edel Rae, of Oldcastle, Malpas, campaigned for months to raise enough money to send 20-year-old Joe, who was born with severe physical and learning difficulties, to a school that would provide him with the specialist therapy and activities he needed to continue his education.
But her prayers were answered in 2011 when Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) and the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) agreed to pay Joe’s fees for a two-year course at the National Star College in Cheltenham.
The residential college caters for young people with complex physical disabilities, and offers hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, as well as music, dance and life skills and the same social, leisure and learning activities as a normal university.
During Joe’s time at college, his confidence has soared and has progressed more than Edel ever dreamed of.
But changes to the funding of young people with special needs are set to be implemented this year meaning local authorities will no longer ‘ringfence’ funding for school leavers with high levels of need.
Instead there will be a budget for all children and young people of this kind up to the age of 25, sparking fears that resources won’t be directed where they are needed most.
Edel is now hoping a review meeting held at the college on February 6 to discuss Joe’s progress will have positive results about whether CWaC are able to fund his third and final year.
Edel, who raised more than £10,000 to put towards fees if funding was refused, said: “It’s a crucial time for Joe, we desperately hope he’ll get another year at college.
“Everything’s up in the air, funding is only agreed annually if providers feel progress is being made so to get a third year and they have to see evidence of that.
“CWaC have been invited and it would be great if they could come to support us.
She added: “The money we raised for Joe is still in his trust fund so if he doesn't get a third year it’d be better to find out sooner so we can think about what he’ll do with the skills he’s learned – they aren’t vast but he’s now walking with a frame, making his own decisions and can even just get up and go into his room which he wasn’t able to do before.
“He’s been positively encouraged to think for himself and make choices, he’s so much more mature now and it would be such a pity to stop him in his tracks now.
“He goes out socialising and is participating in things – the school has changed his life.”
A CWaC spokesman said: “A senior social worker will be attending Joe’s review on February 6 and the council will continue to provide support for him now and in the future.
“A decision on whether he will continue to attend the National Star College will be made following a review of his educational progress at the end of his second year.”