Parents, children and campaigners marched through Lewes to County Hall today (Monday) to protest the proposed cuts to after-school clubs and children’s respite for families of children with disabilities.
Local charity, Embrace East Sussex, Lib Dem county councillors and campaigners from the Save our Services Eastbourne joined with children in prams and mums and dads to voice their fears to East Sussex County Council’s headquarters.
But at a meeting today (July 16), East Sussex County Council’s lead member for education and inclusion Bob Standley approved the closure of the authority’s After School Clubs and Holiday Play Schemes.
Reacting to the news, Embraces’ Chief Executive, Becky Whippy, said, “I feel that today East Sussex has failed in its duty to protect the most vulnerable families in our community.
“They have also behaved undemocratically and refused the disabled community a voice. Bob Standley has not even allowed his peers at county a vote. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Campaigners are hoping to get the full council to debate the issue by gaining 5,000 signatures for this petition.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said, “Although not something we have a statutory duty to provide, the county council has historically funded after school and holiday clubs in special schools in East Sussex.
“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.
“As a result 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 included an offer of 18 months of funding to allow special schools to start and provide a service tailored to their school. At the meeting today, Cllr Standley extended the funding to 24 months.
“Like many other councils, we operate a system where the majority of decisions are made either by cabinet or lead members. Lead members are appointed by the leader and tasked with making certain decisions within their area of responsibility.
“The after school and holiday club service falls within the remit of the lead member for education and ISEND. Cllr Standley made a decision based on the report from officers and the feedback received from the public consultation.”