PARENTS of autistic adults at a specialist college are fearful after their financial support was cut.
The West London Community College has 38 students aged 16 and over with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), many of whom are referred, and have their fees paid, by the local authorities where they live.
There are two campuses – at Colne Lodge in Longbridge Way, Uxbridge, and The Stables Courtyard in Church Road, Hayes – which opened in September 2010.
The college teaches independent living skills and offers a range of vocational courses as well as sports and social clubs.
Students receive tailored guidance based on their needs.
Jacqui Mc Menamin’s 24-year-old son, who suffers from Asperger’s, attended five days a week and was making good progress.
But in December, Hillingdon Council told her it would only pay for two days.
Her son – whom she has asked the Gazette not to name – was also given a week’s notice to move out of The Old Vicarage, a supported residential home for ASD sufferers in Uxbridge that is staffed round-the-clock, after living there for three years.
Councillor Philip Corthorne, Hillingdon’s cabinet member for social services, health and housing, who met a group of worried mothers at the college last week, explained the situation.
“There are challenges the local authority faces, and we have to make the best use of the resources we have at our disposal,” he said. “This inevitably impacts on commissioning.
“National policy dictates that we are moving towards encouraging independent living, and away from traditional, institutionalised forms of care, and we need to be engaging with the parents and the carers.”
Mrs McMenamin says her son’s condition has dramatically worsened, which has had a knock-on effect.
“He won’t leave the house. Everything’s been taken from him all of a sudden so his routine has been disrupted, and it is affecting my work life.
“When he came to the college I knew that he was safe and doing something, and it took a weight off my shoulders.
“Here they are learning and making friends. They feel as if they are worth something, and it builds their confidence.
“As parents we have always had to fight for everything, and we just want what’s best for our children. It is an uphill struggle.”
Mrs McMenamin was one of four mothers who met Mr Corthorne on Wednesday last week to talk about their concerns over funding and what they see as ill-timed decisions about prescribing ‘in the community’ care packages.
Leading autism campaigner, Anna Kennedy, who was instrumental in founding the college, and before that Hillingdon Manor School, said: “I fear the consequences of forcing people to accept services that are simply not meeting their needs.
“Hillingdon used to be a forward-thinking borough, but we are finding that it is not listening to parents or carers.
“You can’t use a broad brush stroke when you are dealing with autism, and it takes a long time to get into the mindframe.
“I fear the council has become big on cuts, but small on vision.”