An adult education charity in SUSSEX has been shut down “due to the crippling effects of the current economic climate”.
Aspire Sussex has announced it is expected to go into administration on Tuesday.
The charity has been commissioned by West Sussex County Council to provide the majority of their adult education program for the past decade.
The chairman of the board of trustees, Dr. Norman Boyland said: “This is a deeply sad day for the delivery of adult education to West Sussex residents, particularly the most vulnerable in our communities that we support.”
A spokesman for the charity blamed the closure on “the devastating impact of the combination of Covid and the cost of living crisis”.
The restrictions imposed during the pandemic have dramatically affected learner numbers, forcing Aspire to draw on its reserves to keep the services running.
Recovery efforts were then crushed by the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, leaving many unable to pay for their courses.
A County Council spokesman said the contract with Aspire was funded by an annual grant from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
He added: “We have provided significant resources, technical advice and additional financial support to Aspire Sussex during this time and in response to Aspire’s requests.
“We will work closely and in partnership with Aspire Sussex, the Administrators and ESFA to support learners.
“As a recipient of ESFA funding, West Sussex County Council reviews the Adult Education Contract on an annual basis.
“Plans are being made for a future sustainable adult education program to meet the needs of our West Sussex communities and help them fulfill their potential.”
News of the charity’s closure was greeted with concern by council members.
Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Lord said: “The closure of an organization providing a much-needed public service such as adult education is always very worrying, but given the current landscape of chronic labor and skills shortages in West Sussex, it is deeply concerning .
“Many public organizations that rely on public funds are financially on a razor’s edge.”
In July, a meeting of the examination board was informed that a review of the adult education offer would be carried out.
Ms Lord said: “We urgently need to see the outcome of this review and understand how West Sussex County Council intends to replace the provision which has now been lost following the closure of Aspire Sussex.”
Labor leader Caroline Baxter said she was shocked by the closure of Aspire and was unaware of the struggles the charity is facing.
She added: “The sad news that the closure will mean the loss of 192 jobs at a time of such extreme economic crisis and financial strain on households is deeply concerning for all involved.”
Sharing her fears that more charities and education providers would go under, she added: “Labour will be monitoring the situation at West Sussex County Council in relation to the 1,200 to 1,300 students already enrolled on courses and making sure that the Council is taking appropriate steps to fill the gap that is now being created for learners, particularly the specialist course offerings for adults with learning disabilities and English for speakers of other languages.”
Sarah Sharp of the Green & Independent Alliance said: “It is incredible how such valued institutions are simply left to decay after so many years of outstanding service to the community.
“I know Aspire in Chichester has proved invaluable in helping refugees learn English and settle in the area.
“The loss of those lessons will be hugely problematic.”
Ms Sharp said West Sussex communities would be poorer with the loss of Aspire, which would reduce opportunities to acquire new skills.
She added: “The loss of employment, wellbeing and life skills courses for beneficiaries will be a major blow.
“I very much hope that alternative solutions are found to keep adult learning opportunities in the county open to our residents as they are not just a ‘nice to have’.
“For people with disabilities it is important that new offers are found.
“Lifelong learning is not only fun, it is the key to a happy, successful and thriving society and economy.”
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https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/23117565.aspire-sussex-adult-education-charity-west-sussex-closes/?ref=rss Aspire Sussex adult education charity in West Sussex is closing