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Assembly Speech 7/4/2008- Further Education Provision for Young People with Disabilities

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Mr Speaker

 I rise to support the motion. It should be the priority of all local politicians to support the personal development of the most vulnerable in our society regardless of background, physical or mental need, age or gender. A society that cannot accept the basis principle of supporting those in greatest need is not a society that deserves to be described as progressive.  I don’t want to go into the statistics, the specifics the essentials; it would be impossible within my time to cover the whole story. However, there are supporting principles that we in the Assembly need to adopt, guidelines that should underpin all that we do if we are to improve the circumstances and well-being of all our people. There is a need for us to listen. In this case to those with learning difficulties and to some extent we have been engaging with school pupils with disabilities and attempting to address these identified needs. However, this needs to be extended and expanded and should include taking note of and about needs in the Further Education areas. We need to speak up for those in need. Not just as opportunities such as this arise but as an ongoing campaign that is unremitting and which articulates the specific needs those young people often with complex and multiple disabilities. We need to provide support and ensure that the necessary infrastructure is available to assist the teachers/lecturers and the student so that the very best learning experience can be guaranteed. Our young disabled people need to feel safe; the learning experience needs to be satisfying and rewarding and to provide increased confidence within their holistic development.  However, this cannot be one way. We need to challenge the students to make choices about their lives and job or career choices. We need to provide all the support that can be provided but we also need them to make decisions and help them stretch to achieve their dreams and their aspirations. And we need to help them take their rightful place in society. To ensure that they have the opportunity to contribute to the community in a positive manner and we need to fully value their contribution. Moving from education (mainly special schools) into further education can be a dramatic experience for those with learning difficulties and disabilities. They need support at this challenging time. They need encouragement assistance to empower them to make their own choices about post-school provision and allow them the opportunity to avoid care centres or intensive support units and for as many as possible to enjoy a fully empowered and comprehensive life making a full contribution to society.
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