Leeds Children’s Charity: Seaside holidays haven faces funding crisis

Sam Kerr holds a trophy along with his winning painting won whilst attending the Silverdale holiday camp in Morecambe.

Sam Kerr holds a trophy along with his winning painting won whilst attending the Silverdale holiday camp in Morecambe.

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A charity which for over a century has offered breaks to Leeds children from low-income families is facing an uncertain future.

Since 1904,over 58,000 youngsters have enjoyed much-needed seaside holidays thanks to the Leeds Children’s Charity and its tailor made premises built on the west coast before the First World War.

But council cuts to children’s services are now putting its future in jeopardy.

Last year, over 300 young people aged from seven to 11 headed off to the charity’s HQ at Silverdale, a picturesque village on Morecambe Bay.

Cash-strapped Leeds City Council, which has backed the charity since its early days, has already cut its funding to the organisation by 20 per cent.

And staff have been told that the figure could fall even further.

LCC chairman Verlie McCann said: “Like everyone else we’ve been affected by the cuts and the city council have so far given us half of our £55,000 grant but they are also saying there are no guarantees about the rest of the money due later in the year.

“Our annual budget is about £180,000 and we have always relied on other sources for funding but now we are really stepping up our search for sources in the private sector as otherwise we won’t be able to continue.”

The charity’s HQ, built in 1954, caters for around 60 children at a time and in recent years has been totally refurbished.

Children come from the most deprived areas of Leeds and are put forward by their schools, with permission from parents or carers, to be considered for a place on the holiday scheme.

Activities include arts and crafts, dance and music, bikes, walks, and swimming.

Mrs McCann, who left a job with a Leeds-based law firm to work full-time for the charity, says the number of families applying for breaks is soaring because of the recession.

“We have always been over-subscribed but this year numbers are up by about 25 per cent as more and more people lose their jobs and have less money to spend.

“For hundreds of children in Leeds, this is their only chance of a holiday and we want to be able to help by increasing the numbers who are able to come. But we can only do that if we get the money we need.”

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services at Leeds City Council, said no decision had yet been made on funding for the charity.

“Due to unprecedented budget pressures, we must look at all ways we can to save money to ensure we continue to provide the vital services that families across the city need.

“We understand many service providers are very anxious about our proposals but we are working closely with them to minimise impact on organisations.

“It is also important to stress whilst there will be reductions in the budget no final decisions have been made about the impact on specific organisations.”

Anyone wishing to help can contact the charity at www.leedschildrenscharity.org.uk.

Oakwell Hall, Birstall.

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