Dozens took to Eastbourne town centre this morning (Sunday) in a protest against proposed cuts to social care services for disabled children.
Parents, politicians, and charity representatives demonstrated at Bankers Corner in Terminus Road against the county council’s planned withdrawal of funding from respite services.
Maria, whose son Alfie has autism and uses the threatened overnight provision at Tower House in St Leonards, gave an emotional speech.
She said, “It’s essential, they learn how to cook with their friends, how to socialise with their friends, how to access things that I could never be able to take him to.
“He needs that stability. To call it a sleepover is an insult.
“My son’s never been at a sleepover and it’s heartbreaking.”
The demonstration also heard from Rebecca Whippy of Embrace East Sussex as well as Lib Dem and Labour politicians.
The town’s MP Stephen Lloyd was present at the rally and said to the Herald, “Yet again this is another vital area affecting vulnerable people where the Conservative-run county council are undertaking savage cuts to services.
“This will mean that severely disabled children will no longer receive respite if the proposed cuts go ahead.
“Which in turn will mean, I’m convinced, that some parents will simply not be able to cope with keeping their children.
“I have had parents contact me to say that the stress and strain of looking after their much loved but very disabled children means that without respite they fear they will put them up for foster care.
“I cannot conceive anything more painful or hurtful for a parent to have to admit that to me.
“This is what we are fighting, which is why we simply must not give up.”
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.