HC Deb 19 July 2004 vol 424 cc86-8W
Mr. Goodman

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the efficacy and efficiency of services provided by his Department to disabled people; and if he will make a statement. [183253]

Mr. Charles Clarke

[holding answer 12 July 2004]: The Government are committed to improving the position of disabled people in society and believe that public bodies should take the lead in promoting equal opportunities. That is why the draft Disability Discrimination Bill extends the DDA to the functions of public bodies and introuces a duty on public bodies to promote equality for disabled people.

Accordingly, my Department keeps the efficacy and efficiency of services provided to disabled people under constant review. The Sure Start Unit has published and disseminated guidance and training materials to Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) in local authorities, which will guide and empower them to support early identification, intervention, develop inclusive early learning environments and existing service provision. These materials will help them to support children in removing barriers to learning wherever these exist.

The Children Act Report 2002, published by DfES in June 2003, pulls together the latest information from statistical returns, inspections and research on social services support for children. This report includes a chapter on support for disabled children and their families. See the DfES website at http://www.dfes.qov.uk.Ofsted inspections of schools and LEAs include a requirement to look at and report on the inclusion of children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities. In addition, Ofsted also undertake reports on specific themes. It is due to report in September 2004 on the initial impact of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 and will also be reporting at regular intervals on progress being made as a result of the Government's Strategy for SEN: Removing Barriers to Achievement. Ofsted also has the lead responsibility for inspecting Connexions partnerships. All Ofsted inspections focus on the experience of young people and evaluate and report on quality and effectiveness of the partnership. Ofsted's framework for inspection states that they should report on how responsive the partnership is to the range and diversity of young people in the area. In making their judgments, Ofsted report on the relevance of programmes provided and whether they provide for the diverse needs of young people within the target age group, taking into account such features as sex, link ethnicity and disability and ensuring equality and equity. See the Ofsted website at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) provides funding to the higher education institutions and further education colleges it funds to widen access and improve provision for disabled students. It publishes an annual series of performance indicators that cover access, progression, retention, research, graduate employment and disability. The allocation of funds reflects the proportion of students that each institution recruits who are in receipt of the disabled students allowance (DSA). See "Explanation of how the mainstream disability allocation for 2004–05 is calculated" at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/widen/sldd/ allocat.asp

HEFCE also distributes special initiative funding in support of students with learning difficulties and disabilities. In the current round, they have funded 54 projects in two strands. Funding for this round of projects began in January 2003 and the programme ends in December 2005. See HEFCE's "2003–05 Special funding programme: Improving provision for disabled students" at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/widen/sldd/fund03-O5.asp

HEFCE also funds the National Disability Team to support projects and provide guidance to the higher education sector on disability issues and legislation. More details can be found at http://www.natdisteam.ac.uk/

In May 2003 HEFCE published "Project capital round three: invitation to apply for funds". Of the £494 million allocated to improve capital and IT infrastructure to support learning and teaching, £117 million is allocated to improve provision for disabled students, in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and its extension in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. See http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/circlets/2004/c102_04/

In addition, the Department has published guidance on the additional studentsupport that students with disabilities are entitled to. This guidance ("Bridging the Gap; A guide to the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in higher education") can be downloaded from http://www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport/students/stu_students_with_d.shtml.

A review of the administration of disabled students allowances was carried out by SKILL: the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities at the request of DfES. A summary of SKILL'S findings and recommendations can be found on the Department's website at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport/dsa_.shtml

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) published its Annual Equality and Diversity Report for 2002–03 in November 2003, including an assessment of progress in providing equal access to Further Education and adult learning for disabled people. This publication is available in electronic form on the LSC's website: www.lsc.gov.uk

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