‘Small victory’ in respite struggle

David Lund - Executive director for Children and Young People's Services at Blackpool Council.
David Lund - Executive director for Children and Young People's Services at Blackpool Council.
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ANXIOUS parents have been offered a temporary reprieve after council bosses announced there will be respite care this Easter.

Fears were raised play schemes which offer a lifeline to disabled children and families across Blackpool would be scrapped.

The future of STARS (Socialisation Through Active Recreation and Sports) which provides youngsters with activities in the school holiday, was a particular concern as staff at the Aiming High for Disabled Children initiative which run STARS were let go last week.

But parents have now been told there will be a four-day scheme available in the Easter holiday with space for 12 children each day.

One former member of staff, who did not wished to be named said the last-minute decision was a ‘small victory for parents’.

The worker said: “Although the play scheme normally runs for five days with places for more than 20 kids this decision is better than nothing.

“Parents have fought for this and I know they will continue to fight to get the services they not only need but deserve.

“The problem we now have is how we can prioritise children because we cannot accept all of them back.”

Two trips to the cinema, Easter crafts and a day out at Stanley Park have been organised for the play scheme which will run from April 18 to 21.

Ian Ellis, whose autistic son Christopher, 11, attends the scheme said Blackpool council’s decision to provide car this Easter gave parents ‘breathing space’.

He said: “It’s last minute and I know organisers are doing there best to set up last minute activities because they are so passionate about the kids.

“We had managed to find a place for Christopher at another play scheme for two days. We can send him to Stars for the other two which is great.

“The main thing we have to concentrate on now is the future and the summer holiday play scheme because this fight doesn’t end here. We need to know what service will be provided by the government, it is one thing saying the money is there but we need to know what will be done with it.”

David Lund, executive director of children, adult and family services at Blackpool Council, said the council is developing a long term strategy to maintain support for short breaks.

Blackpool Council confirmed the play scheme will go ahead in Easter after a partnership was arranged with PIPs (Playwork Inclusion Project).

A Blackpool Council spokesman said: “The Stars play scheme is for children with additional needs and is highly valued by local families.

“The council funded play scheme will still be going ahead this Easter and will be delivered in partnership with another organisation. Details will be published to families very soon.

“We are also working on making provisions for the scheme in summer.”