Parents of children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) in Morecambe and Lancaster are up in arms about proposed cuts to specialist after-school and holiday clubs. Lancashire Break Time funding helps to pay for children with SEND to attend clubs to give both the child and their carers a break but Lancashire County Council are now proposing to cut ALL funding for the service as part of the Conservative administration’s budget proposals. Parents and local politicians are fighting back, with a petition and campaign to keep the clubs going.
Lancaster Mum Tracy Duffy has a 10 year old son with autism, learning difficulties and epilepsy who attends after school and holiday clubs funded by the Lancashire Break Time scheme. Tracy is worried about the impact both on her son and also the whole family if funding is pulled.
Tracy said “My family has to work around my son’s needs and this often leaves my six year old daughter feeling a bit left out. The clubs let me spend quality time with her and also allows me to work. My son has been to the clubs since he was four years old. The staff and kids there give him acceptance and peer support. If the clubs stop I won’t have the time to spend with my daughter and may even have to give up work.
“It’s already a struggle to get appropriate care and funding for SEN children, why are they targeting cuts at the most vulnerable?”
A petition has been started on Change.org by Cllr Lizzi Collinge, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, who said “Reading the County budget papers, these shocking proposals leapt off the page. They not only mean further hardship for families dealing with additional needs, they could well end up costing the County Council more money in the long run.
“The alternative will be to go through a costly and long-winded formal assessment with social workers, with many children not reaching the high statutory threshold for help. Children and families who don’t get regular respite are far more likely to end up in a crisis situation and residential care for children in crisis costs a very large amount of money. It wouldn’t take many children across Lancashire going into crisis to wipe out any savings and the human cost of these cuts is staggering.
“Yet again, Conservative Government cuts are hitting the people most in need of council support. I’d urge families affected to fill in the consultation and share the petition with their family and friends.”
Nicola Smith, of Westgate, Morecambe, is also really worried about losing after school and holiday care. Her son Roberto, 12, goes to Morecambe Road school and uses the clubs there regularly. Nicola said “Roberto has no sense of danger and so needs really close supervision. Me and Roberto’s Dad both work and only this specialist care can keep Roberto safe and well while we’re at work.
“Roberto gets really upset if his routine is disrupted, so any changes would be very bad for him. I also have a 13 year old daughter who needs some one-to-one attention from us, so if we’re not working and Roberto is in the holiday club, she can have Mum to herself for once without Roberto taking all the attention.”
Roberto’s Dad, Bob, added ‘Mainstream childcare can’t look after our Bertie, and lots of parents will be forced to reduce their hours or give up work.”
Nicola agrees with Tracy that children with disabilities or additional needs already get a raw deal saying “These kids need the clubs more than most but they are always having services taken away. It’s not fair on them.”
Another Morecambe Mum, Michelle Parr, has a son who uses holiday clubs at Piccadilly Support Services funded by Lancashire Breaktime. Michelle says this is the third club they have found, the previous two having shut down. Michelle said “Every time we find something suitable for our son it seems to disappear. Having just found the Piccadilly Club, it is heartbreaking to hear it might go. We’ve tried mainstream provision and it just doesn’t work for us as the staff don’t have the specialist knowledge needed to care for our son. He really enjoys his time there and would be really upset if it finished. We just want him to be safe and happy.”
People affected by the proposal can fill in the Lancashire Break Time consultation by going to the County Council website www.lancashire.gov.uk and clicking ‘Have Your Say’.
The petition against closing the services can be found on www.change.org/p/lancashire-county-council-keep-lancashire-break-time-for-kids-with-disabilities-sen and via Lizzi Collinge’s official Facebook page www.facebook.com/lizzicollinge