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Special needs student wins compensation after being denied funding to complete course


A student who won a gold medal for badminton at the Irish Special Olympics has won compensation after he was refused funding for the final year of a catering skills programme.

Adam Smyth, from Lisburn, who has a learning disability, received £2,000 compensation in a settlement made by the Department for the Economy and the South Eastern Regional College, without admission of liability.

Mr Smyth, assisted by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, had issued proceedings in the County Court alleging breaches of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, in that the defendants failed to make a reasonable adjustment to ensure he could receive funding for the completion of his course, and of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005.

The South Eastern Regional College provides a catering course within their Skills for Work programme, which is part of a Department for the Economy scheme known as ‘Training for Success’.

Mr Smyth completed Level One of the course in 2015, but took an extra year – three rather than two - to do so as a result of his disability. To take Level Two, he also needed two years, which would have meant exceeding by one year the Departmental guidelines for funding.

When Mr Smyth’s circumstances were explained to the Department by the college, they were told: “Unfortunately, an exception cannot be made; there are no extensions given.”

He eventually completed the course successfully, although he lost out on various benefits which he could have accessed had he not been outside the Training for Success Scheme.

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said: “Under the Disability Discrimination Act any provider of services has a duty to make adjustments where their practices, policies or procedures make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to access those services.

“Adam had the time for his first course extended by one year because of his disability, and his request for a similar extension to the second course was entirely reasonable. The refusal by the Department to make an adjustment to the funding arrangements left Adam with less funding and support and it was more difficult for him to complete the course.”

Original Source: Irish Legal News

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