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Last-ditch bid to restore disabled playscheme

"HEAVEN and earth" are being moved to save a playscheme for disabled children that was scrapped to save the council money.

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"HEAVEN and earth" are being moved to save a playscheme for disabled children that was scrapped to save the council money.

Hyndburn Council leader Peter Britcliffe has ordered officers to find a way of reinstating the "vital" summer scheme at White Ash School in Oswaldtwistle after council chiefs cut its funding in December.

Councillor Britcliffe said a gaffe occurred when setting the budget, and added that Lancashire County Council - which part-funds the scheme - was slow to confirm its contribution.

He said: "The playscheme is in jeopardy. I learned about it this week and am very anxious to see it restored. Both the Cabinet and I feel it should continue, so we have asked officers to pull out all the stops to get it reinstated."

"As a single parent and a teacher myself, I realise how hard it is to fill time during the school holidays. For parents of disabled children it must be very difficult and we must work to help them."

"The scheme is vital. County is now saying the money is available and therefore I am prepared to provide Hyndburn's share of the funding."

But it is unclear when a final decision will be made about the scheme and parents of the 21 children who use it are panicking about alternative cover.

Pamela McCullagh, mother of 10-year-old Matthew Wilcock, who suffers from Angelman Syndrome - which causes movement problems, severe learning difficulties, epilepsy and slow growth - said: "I have been told it's impossible to resurrect the scheme, it's far too late. But Hyndburn Council has known about this since December and it has only just told us. It's very unfair."

Matthew, who lives with his mum in Sparth Road, Clayton-le-Moors, has used the scheme for five years.

"He needs the interaction of it," said Ms McCullagh. "He is comfortable with the people there and the scheme generally. It provides real help for parents in the holidays and I was devastated to learn it was cancelled."

Councillor Britcliffe said Lancashire County Council was contacted in January to clarify its position but failed to do so. As a result, the £6,000 that Hyndburn Council gives annually to the £19,000 scheme was withdrawn.

A county council spokesman confirmed it was unable to clarify how much money it could provide, but said £8,000 was now available to support the scheme, as was the case last year.

He said: "We were asked to increase our financial support because of a decision by Hyndburn Council to withdraw funding from its share of the costs. Unfortunately, increasing Social Services financial support would reduce the availability of funds for similar schemes elsewhere in the county."