Play lifelines under threat

Blackpool FC apprentice coach Mitch Waring watches five year old Will White show off his ball skills
Blackpool FC apprentice coach Mitch Waring watches five year old Will White show off his ball skills
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A HOLIDAY lifeline for hundreds of underprivileged children and their families is under threat.

Play schemes, which offer activities to 400 children during the summer holidays, were scrapped as part of Government funding cuts.

But parents were given a second chance after Blackpool FC Community Trust agreed to take over the sessions from Blackpool Council.

Using BEACh funding, ring-fenced Government money provided to schools to assist low income families, the trust has run summer schemes at five Blackpool primary schools as well as Unity College.

However, the future now looks bleak after it was revealed the BEACh funding will no longer be ring-fenced and from September can be used for any projects within schools.

Debra Smith, play scheme manager, told The Gazette: “I would say 75 per cent of kids using the scheme are BEACh funded, without that there is no way parents could afford it.

“But it’s vital children have somewhere to go where they are safe, especially as some kids are extremely vulnerable and need monitoring.”

The schemes are held at Mereside Primary, Kingcraig Primary, Christ the King Primary, Devonshire Primary, Marton Primary and Unity College. Parents say the scheme is a lifeline.

Emma Khan, 39, of Bispham Road, Layton, said her son Hassan, seven, loves the scheme and without it would probably play in the street

She said “I’m a single parent and without the funding I could not afford to send him.”

Fred Holmes, 39, of Bispham, says his seven-year-old step son, Sean Hooten, has benefited from the scheme.

He added: “He loves it, it is really good that these projects exist because without them kids would be smashing things in the street.”

Derek Spence, Blackpool Community Trust boss, is now appealing to local councillors and MPs for help.

He said: “The schemes were finished when the council pulled its funding – £50,000 across five sites – but the trust and its staff and volunteers rallied to help out.

“Now we are asking councillors to rally for us, we are talking about small change in the grand scheme of things – we would need £6,000 per site.

“If we can get that these children will remain safe in the holiday.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said he will continue to support the scheme.

He said: “I’m delighted the Community Trust has been organising these summer break events – it’s clear it gives children strong social skills as well as a fun time.

“I will continue to work with the club to look at new ways of supporting and funding these key activities.”