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.
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.
She 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 allow 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?”
County Coun Lizzi Collinge 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.”
Nicola Smith, of Westgate, Morecambe, is also 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.”
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’.