Leeds charity Mencap loses city council contract

PLAY FUN: Mark Corbally at Leeds Mencap youth club. His mother said the effect of the cancellation would be devastating on parents and children.

PLAY FUN: Mark Corbally at Leeds Mencap youth club. His mother said the effect of the cancellation would be devastating on parents and children.

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Leeds charity Mencap has lost the contract to provide services for hundreds of local young people with learning difficulties.

Leeds City Council has announced the ending of an £80,000 contract with the 59-year-old Leeds charity which runs nine play schemes, two youth groups and a dance group for youngsters with learning difficulties.

The services were provided by the small, independent city charity but after a tendering process have been awarded to another provider.

Leeds City Council last night emphasised that no clients would lose services.

The charity described their services as “a lifeline to families of children with a learning disability”, and said that it was not clear what alternative services will be available, or when they will be put in place.

“The activities affected cater for two to 18 year olds and support the youngsters in learning key life skills, making new friends and having fun,” said Leeds Mencap.

“They are essential activities for anyone, but given that eight out of 10 children with a learning disability are bullied these schemes are of huge importance and their significance in the youngsters’ development cannot be overestimated.

“The activities also provide much-needed respite for parents and carers, who regularly look after their children for 24 hours a day with minimal support or external care.

“All of the activities are hugely popular and regularly receive fabulous feedback, with 100 per cent of parents feeding back from the Christmas play scheme that the scheme had been ‘excellent.’”

Sue Corbally, from Barwick in Elmet, the mother of 17-year-old Mark, who attends play schemes and the Thursday Junior Youth Club, said: “The word ‘devastate’ does not go far enough in what this will do for both the parents and children of those who use the services. Without these activities there is nothing my son can access, he will have no social life at all, and I, along with many parents of children with disabilities are already at breaking point – this may well push many over the edge.”

Most of the services were provided at Mencap’s headquarters at East End Park. The dance group activity is based at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Chapeltown.

Stewart Jefferson.

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