Eastbourne protest against cuts to services for disabled children

The rally will be held at Bankers Corner
The rally will be held at Bankers Corner

Protestors will take to the streets of Eastbourne this weekend in a rally against cuts to school services.

Organised by Save Our Services (SOS), the demonstration will start outside Bankers’ Corner in the town centre from 11am on Sunday, May 20.

This comes after the announcement that the county council could be withdrawing its funding from after school clubs and other respite services for disabled children and children with special needs.

Organiser Allison Smith fosters three children who use the services.

She said, “It will affect all the children really badly. They won’t have anywhere else to go for any kind of help with people trained to provide it.

“It will affect parents who will have to give up work because there won’t be anywhere for their children to go.”

She added, “All the staff will lose their jobs. There’s no guarantee they will be rehired by the education authority.

“They are highly trained and incredibly skilled. Many children they look after can’t talk or have epilepsy or breathing problems. The staff know those children and are able to look after them.”

While Rebecca Whippy, of Embrace East Sussex – a charity which supports disabled and special needs children – said, “The impact of closing these overnight, Saturday Club and afterschool services will be devastating on the families Embrace Support.

“The Children’s Act 1989 and S2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 require that such services are provided for disabled children.

“Closing these services does not remove the local authority’s duty of care to assess the needs of each and every child that requires it.

“Unfortunately, it seems likely that by the time they have got around to doing this, many of the services that could support these children’s needs will be closed – leaving the children and their families in crisis.

“It is hard to see how the Local Authority will be able to uphold their duty of care to these families without funding these services.”

The county council is currently consulting on the proposals – the online consultation runs until May 30 and is available here.

An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said, “Although not something we have a statutory duty to provide, we have historically funded these clubs.

“Cuts in Government funding mean the council has had to make £110 million of savings since the start of the decade and a further £17 million this financial year.

“We are having to review how all of our services are delivered, and focus our increasingly limited resources on providing statutory and critical services in the future.

“The proposals for after-school and holiday clubs in special schools were drawn up following discussions with special school head teachers and the East Sussex Parent and Carer Council, and include an offer of 18 months of funding to allow special schools to start and provide a service tailored to their school.

“We would encourage parents and carers to share their views with us by taking part in our consultation.

“Feedback from the consultation will be considered when a final decision on changes to the service is made in July.”

To find out more about the Save Our Services Campaign search @saveservicesEB on Facebook.