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Skill's policy track record at national level in recent months

[posted 22nd August 2002]

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1. Completed a study with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the Learning and Skills Development Agency and the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education to elicit how a range of further and higher education staff felt LSC money might best be spent to support the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act Part 4 on Education. Also working with the LSC on what other steps are required to meet the needs of learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

2. Produced, at the request of the Disability Rights Commission, the statutory Code of Practice for post-16 education providers explaining their responsibilities under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA). Skill also chaired the consortium of disability charities set up to secure amendments and develop guidelines to SENDA and the Learning and Skills Act.

3. Skill's Chief Executive advises the new Connexions Service on careers, disability issues, business plans, the equal opportunities statements and quality standards for the reorganisation of the careers guidance and youth service in England.

4. Skill's policy Director FE has been invited to address all 47 local Learning and Skills Council directors, and Skill's Chief Executive has been invited to sit on the newly formed Equality and Diversity Advisory Group of the National Learning and Skills Council.

5. Skill Northern Ireland was invited by the Department for Learning and Employment to submit a proposal for addressing the impact of new legislation in education and disability within higher and further education, following publication of their 'Student Voices' project promoting the experience and views of disabled further education students.

6. Skill Scotland's staff and Chair contributed to the Beattie report on transition to post-school education. Skill Scotland's Director has designed induction training on inclusiveness for key workers and has produced a handbook for key workers and career advisers. Demand for Skill Scotland's training on the DDA shows no sign of abating. Skill also contributed to Scottish Funding Council consultations and parliamentary committee inquiries eg on lifelong learning.

7. Skill recently met with Maria Eagle, Minister for Disabled People, to raise awareness of discriminatory practices in unpaid work placements and amongst professional bodies, and to discuss a number of outstanding issues including disability rights, student benefits and transport in further education. Skill is also in touch with Malcolm Wicks, Minister for Work, on housing benefit issues. Two of these student benefits issues are now under active consideration by government.

8. Margaret Hodge, Minister of State (Universities) and Angela Eagle, Minister with responsibility for the voluntary sector, both attended launches of Skill publications in 2001. Margaret Hodge also launched Skill's Enhancing Quality of Life research report and dissemination pack in February 2002. She congratulated Skill and their research partner, the University of Cambridge, on their important contribution to the field of profound and complex learning difficulties, and handed on responsibility for implementing the initiative to inter-agency co-operation. In July 2002 Margaret Hodge further congratulated Skill on its input into recent legislative changes, and charged Skill with spearheading the implementation of the changes to the DDA in post compulsory education, to maximise benefits for disabled people.

9. A significant proportion of prisoners are known to have learning difficulties. Skill has been invited to work with the new department at DfES on education in prisons, since it took over the Home Office remit on education in prisons in 2001. We are writing a handbook for good practice in learning and teaching for prisoners with learning difficulties and disabilities. Staff from the Prisons Unit at DfES attend Skill's Lifelong Learning Working Party.

10. Skill's website has been accepted as part of the National Grid for Learning, providing a single interactive search facility linking all further and higher education institutions and their disability information.

11. On the wider scene, the UK has to be compliant with disability issues under European Union Employment and Race Directives by 2006 on which Skill has already made a response.

As a result of this and similar work, Skill is extremely well placed as an independent and informed voice, to advise education institutions on the adjustments they must make under recent legislation, and disabled individuals and their advisers on changes coming into force from September 2002.

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