PARENTS of adults with severe learning difficulties are facing college bills of nearly £5,000 after funding was slashed by the government.

They are being forced to pay more than £1,600 for each of three years for the successful Pathways programme at Bournemouth and Poole College.

The course, for over-19s with disabilities or severe or moderate learning difficulties, has been free of charge until now.

But government funding which covered half the cost of the course has been removed.

Alison Smith from Moordown was furious after learning she will have to pay fees for her autistic son, 19-year-old Louis.

She told the Daily Echo: “I was delighted to learn he had been accepted on the Pathways course so, imagine my disbelief when I was told that, due to government cutbacks, I would have to meet half the cost of the course, £1,620 per year, with reduced hours.

“As carers, we save the government thousands of pounds in potential care and we don’t mind because we love our sons, daughters and elderly relatives. Yes, cuts have to be made but for goodness’ sake, don’t penalise us any more.”

Mrs Smith said alternatives to the course would cost a lot more and added: “If the excellent courses run by the college can’t be taken up because of cost, the local councils will have to fund other activities and care for these people.”

She said parents were given no warning and had no opportunity to save money to meet the costs.

The course offers individual timetables and aims to develop social, communication and self-advocacy skills.

College spokeswoman Julie-Anne Houldey added: “Due to changes in legislation and government funding, the government will only fund 50 per cent towards the cost of the course and expects parents or students to co-fund – we appreciate how difficult this is going to be for some people but it is out of our control.

“We are working with parents and carers to look at ways of how we can support them, such as flexible payment methods. We want to give them as much help as we can.”