Joy as disabled kids’ clubs are saved

Parents celebrate with MP John Hayes
Parents celebrate with MP John Hayes
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Parents and profoundly disabled children are celebrating because their only chance to socialise at specialist after-school, youth and holiday clubs has been saved.

The Spalding Guardian had the amazing job of breaking the news to the mum of a pupil at The Garth School in Spalding, who has been involved in the campaign to stop Lincolnshire County Council axing the vital lifeline.

I can’t believe we’ve actually won the battle. I could cry.

Mum Sarah-Jane Russell

Sarah-Jane Russell, whose nine-year-old son Levi has a long list of disabilities, said: “This is brilliant – I can’t believe we’ve actually won the battle. I could cry.

“If we had lost our after-school clubs and activities it would have sent so many families into crisis.

“I really don’t think the council thought it through. I haven’t told my son his clubs were threatened – he enjoys going so much and I didn’t want to send his anxiety levels rocketing – and now, bless him, I won’t have to.

“It’s been hard work and a long battle. We’ve had various petitions and the one online got 1,600 names. People even supported us from the Dominican Republic and Ireland. The support has been overwhelming and we want to thank everyone.”

A meeting yesterday with John Hayes, who is fighting for his fifth term as MP for South Holland and the Deepings, had been organised to take the campaign forward, but instead it turned into a celebration.

Mr Hayes described the news as a “victory for people power”. He said: “I’m really pleased for them. It is an important step forward and I’m proud to be part of it. My job now will be to continue giving my support and go with parents and carers to see the council to make sure they get what they want.”

The Spalding Guardian reported last month the county council cuts would affect not only The Garth School, but would also hit pupils from Willoughby School in Bourne, Gosberton House School and others in Lincolnshire.

Children with autism, cerebral palsy and conditions like global development delay – some in wheelchairs and some unable to speak – rely on the clubs run by Action for Children, with their specialist trained staff, to put fun in their lives.

Executive headteacher Daran Bland, who oversees Spalding’s Garth and Priory Schools, said the children have severe disabilities and complex behaviours and health care needs. He said: “You can’t just say ‘what are you going to do at the weekend?’ – they can’t go to Scouts, Cubs or Beavers and you can’t just pick up the ‘What’s On holiday guide’ for children within South Holland.”

A statement said: “Lincolnshire County Council will continue to provide holiday clubs, youth groups and community group activities for children and young people with complex and special needs.

“It’s been recognised that other supporting provision is also required to sit alongside the holiday clubs, youth group and community group activities. There are also plans to implement a grant development programme for providers, to assist them in providing services which are inclusive for children with disabilities. It’s expected that parents and carers will also have an input into this to create a sustainable market place, offering a range of support going forward.

“The council will work with schools around the county to ensure after-school activities are developed and maintained where they are most needed.

“The current contract for these activities was extended for six months by the county council to review what should be provided, consult with all those who use the services and to plan ahead for effective support in the future.”