Parents launch bid to save axed after-school club in Leeds

Parents of disabled children have launched a fundraising campaign to re-start what they say is a vital after school service for their kids. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
Parents of disabled children have launched a fundraising campaign to re-start what they say is a vital after school service for their kids. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Desperate families of disabled children in Leeds have launched a fundraising bid to try and save an after-school activities club which has been axed by the council.

Parents and children were left devastated after the weekly After School Project at Herd Farm in Eccup was cancelled by Leeds City Council with a month’s notice, following a funding review.

The service - which had a waiting list to join - offered activities including rope climbing, adapted bike cycling, archery and crate stacking every Wednesday to children with disabilities such as severe autism.

Now, parents are appealing for help to raise £14,000 to re-start it as a private enterprise.

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Mum Rebecca Bowens, of Holt Park – whose son Theo, 12, has learning disabilities and epilepsy – said there is nothing else like it in the area.

“Most of these children are the ones who generally don’t get invited to birthday parties so this place gives them the opportunity to socialise with other children and make friends. It’s a mixture of really good activities, fantastic staff and it’s local to us. We need it back up again.”

Marilyn Marston, mum of James, 11, who has autism and learning difficulties, said she was horrified when she received the letter saying it would end.

“I was devastated. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I thought, that’s it, it’s all over. He was on the waiting list for nearly a year and only started in September. It was the one thing we really wanted him to do because it’s outside.

“They really do encourage them to do things. Otherwise James would literally come home from school and use the ipad or TV and not do anything much. It’s difficult for autistic kids to engage with people. It’s been fantastic He really enjoyed going, he enjoyed everything about it,” said Marilyn, of Adel.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We review the short breaks services which we fund on an annual basis to ensure we prioritise services that will have the biggest impact for children and families.

“We have met with those families affected by this decision and offered them support to access other short-break activities offered by providers located across the city. The council has also offered to assist and support those parents who have indicated they may wish to source funding independently to continue this activity at Herd Farm.”

To donate to the fundraising bid, contact Marilyn on m.e.marston@me.com.

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