Parents in Edinburgh say they are devastated after learning of cuts to a service which provides trained staff to support children with additional needs to go to after school club.
Families were informed last week, just two weeks before the return to school, that their children would no longer be able to attend the groups due to Edinburgh Council cuts to the ‘ChildCare4All’ programme.
Parents say this will not only impact their ability to work but also means their children will be deprived of the chance to socialise with their peers – which has an impact on their development.
University student Gillian Coulter said her sons Jack and Max both attend an after school club, where ten-year-old Jack, who has autism and ADHD, gets extra support from ChildCare4All.
But now due to the cut in funding, only Max will be able to go.
She told STV News: “I received an email on Wednesday to tell me that Jack will no longer be able to attend his after school club, due to funding being cut by Edinburgh City Council, and that’s the first we’ve heard about that
“I broke the news to him on Wednesday, and he was very angry about that, understandably.
“He said, ‘why’s my brother allowed to go to after school club and I’m not?’
“Socialisation with his neuro-typical peers and well as neuro-diverse peers, that’s huge for him.
“And it makes him feel part of normal society, so it is very impactful to him and it will have a negative impact.”
Emma Parker’s son Thomas is five and is autistic.
He is set to enter primary one this month, but this news could scupper Emma’s hopes of taking on more work to support her family.
She said: “We actually recently moved back to Scotland from Japan, where Thomas was born.
“I’m effectively single parenting because I can’t bring my husband here on a spouse visa without a well-paid job, so I really need the childcare to be able to work.
“Having just returned I can’t access any public funds, nothing for his disability, no child benefit nothing.
“I understand the reasoning behind that, they want me to work, and fine I’d love to work too but it’s really hard to do that within just P1 hours.”
Juliana Capes says the scheme “should be something Edinburgh Council are proud of,”
She started a petition calling for a re-think, which has now garnered more than 2,000 signatures.
Juliana’s son Harris attended an after school club due to support from ChildCare4All, and her daughter Delphi still does.
“She’s been going there for the past three or four years, it’s one of the only places that she gets the chance to socialise in a supported safe way.
“It means the world to her, and I was actually just on the phone to her after school club and they’re gutted too, they want to be an inclusive club, they want to support her.”
Councillor Joan Griffiths, Education, Children and Families Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “As part of our due diligence we became aware of a contract with a third-sector provider that was performing significantly below our thresholds for best value. This left us no option but to terminate it.
“All families have been contacted and given assurance that the support they previously received is in place. Officers will continue to develop plans to provide the support in a way that meets our commitment to parents, carers and providers, while also ensuring that public money is not wasted.
“Any delays in contacting affected families were due to the organisation failing to supply us with the necessary details. I will also be writing to the provider to seek further clarity of what the funds were used for and the services that were provided.”
Ben Bradbury, Operations Manager, with Capability Scotland, said: “We are bitterly disappointed, not just with the decision to pull the service, but in the manner it has been handled.
“Over 12 years as contract provider we have worked with hundreds of children with additional support needs in Edinburgh, ensuring that they can thrive through tailored and quality out of school care.
“Capability Scotland strives to work with its local authority partners to deliver good value, this service has always delivered to the highest standards without a single increase in funding for the previous six years for cost of living or inflation. We have an exemplary track record, at no stage have any issues been raised by the council through our various contract review processes.
“That positivity has always extended to the parents and guardians, the children benefiting directly, and the many childcare providers we have worked with, hence our confusion and sense of disbelief at Councillor Griffiths’ comments.
“We continue to believe the children and their families are the most important group of people in this situation – and we sincerely hope that a resolution can be found to ensure they continue to be supported.”