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(UK) Edinburgh: Special needs kids lose after-school clubs due to funding cuts

Disabled children in Edinburgh are being left out of after-school clubs following the city's council decision to cut funding with minimal warning. Families have been left devastated by the move that will affect primary school-aged children that live with Additional Support Needs (ASN).

Those affected were alerted to the change in funding support for after-school clubs in July, just a matter of weeks before the new school term was due to start. It has left working parents scrambling to try to find alternative childcare, while others fear that their children are being excluded from mixing with their peers.

Families only found out about the cut when Capability Scotland, who provided contracted support for their children at after-school clubs through the 'Childcare Strategy Funding', alerted parents that they would no longer be able to provide one to one support due to the council deciding not to renew their contracts.

They are now calling for the City of Edinburgh Council to reinstate the funding so that no ASN child is left behind. Imogene Keane, 45, from Duddingston, says her son Tommy Keane, 9, has been attending his primary after-school club since P2.

This is the second time that Tommy has been told that he would be excluded from sharing a space with his peers. "Tommy was diagnosed autistic when he was six. He has severe dyslexia and I work full time and always have," she said.

"When we looked into Tommy attending after school club in P2 he was told that they would not be able to support him due to his autism. Thankfully the school helped us to get in touch with Capability Scotland who helped provide funding for extra support….

"He has been happily attending ever since. But last week we found out that he was to be excluded. It was heartbreaking telling him. We cried a lot in P2 and we cried a lot now. This time the friendships he has formed would be so difficult to lose.

"The inequality this creates is huge, it is a couple of hours of someone's time they are funding and there must be other ways to make cuts."

Another parent affected, Emma Parker, 50, from Craiglockhart, has recently relocated back to the UK from Japan with her son, Thomas Parker Sato, five, who is autistic and is due to start primary school in a week's time.

"We began preparing for Thomas to attend our local primary school a couple of months ago and when I spoke to the school they felt he would need one to one support like he received back in Japan," she said. "They said that it should not be a problem as the council often provides support through a Capability Scotland. They too were shocked when we found out that the contract was not renewed.

"The loss of funding meant that they would not be able to provide a support worker to accommodate Thomas's needs. The school wants to include him but there is nothing they can do without the funding.

"My husband is not in the UK so it is just me at the moment. I am a freelance translator and have found that I'm often having to work after Thomas goes down at night as there are not enough hours in the day.

"Thomas is autistic and has developmental delay with limited communication skills. He does talk but does not answer many questions and struggles to express basic needs in requests.

"As well as this he is not toilet trained and needs some support with eating. He has no road sense or safety awareness so he requires extra care. It has made us feel sad. It seems a pity for Thomas to lose out on the vital socialisation with his peers because funding has been cut. There is a feeling of being let down.")

Councillor Joan Griffiths, education, children and families convener, said: "Following a review of a contract with an external provider, the council is looking at alternative ways to work with families to ensure children are supported to attend private out of school care provision. We will be getting in touch with families affected to discuss what in-house support can be offered to them."


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