A Limavady family is to start a Facebook campaign and write to the British Prime Minister after learning a government funded scheme helping their autistic brother is to end.
Katrina Kordula’s brother, John Lynch, suffers from autism and moderate learning difficulties. Through a supported employment scheme for young adults with learning difficulties, John worked in several places, including Tesco and Altnagelvin Hospital.
Ms Kordula said: “For John it meant he was able to socialise and learn many new skills. We know there will always have to be some measure of support in the background for John, but it doesn’t mean John isn’t capable of going out and living a relatively normal life. There is no point in sending John to Belmont School in Derry, which is fantastic and which has worked so hard with John throughout the years to ensure he came out of school with an education and could be a relatively independent adult. Now it’s all gone to waste. Are we going back to the days where people with learning difficulties are placed in asylums where they are forgotten? It’s John’s rights that are being overlooked.”
A Department of Education and Learning spokesperson said the programme, New Deal for Disabled People, closed to new entrants on 31 October 2010, as the term of the contracts had come to an end. They say existing participants on NDDP have continued to receive appropriate support for the defined period agreed with the the various contract providers. A replacement programme for NDDP, entitled Work Connect, has been developed and a formal procurement exercise for the award of new contracts throughout Northern Ireland will be initiated in the coming weeks. The spokesperson added DEL is “fully committed to helping those people with serious health conditions and disabilites, but who wish to progress towards, find and sustain a job that is right for them, to do so through delivering quality employment services and programmes”.