Up to 350 staff at the charity Linkage Community Trust, which runs a specialist college for students with learning disabilities, could lose their jobs because of a sharp fall in the number of students being referred to the college.
The charity, which is based in Lincolnshire, employs about 900 staff and, according to accounts filed with the Charity Commission, had an income of £17m in 2010/11.
Jane Howson, the charity’s business development director, told Third Sector the number of students at Linkage College had fallen from 200 to about 150 for this academic year and was expected to remain low for the next academic year.
She said the fall in student numbers had led the charity to draw up plans to lose 208 full-time posts, which would affect about 350 employees. The proposals were the subject of an ongoing consultation with staff, she said.
Howson said the responsibility for referring students to the college, which has three campuses, had been transferred from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities about two years ago.
She said the LSC used to refer between 50 and 60 students from the Lincolnshire County Council area to the college each year, but the council had referred just one student for the current academic year.
"I think the council is very wedded to the idea of placing students in mainstream education, and in some cases it has also decided that people with learning disabilities would not benefit from further education and should instead look at social care options," she said.
Lincolnshire County Council issued a statement that said: "Young people continue to be referred to Linkage when it is the most appropriate provider that can meet their needs. If there is a better way of providing the service, which is close to a young person's home, then we will discuss this option with the young person, teachers, parents or carers and with relevant support agencies."
A spokeswoman said the council was following government guidelines by looking to place students with mainstream providers if possible, and to place students close to their homes.