Edinburgh parents petition council after cuts to after-school club help for children with additional support needs

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Some families were told their child would no longer have a place just before school started back.

Parents in Edinburgh say they are devastated after they were told that their children will no longer be able to attend after-school clubs due to cuts to a lifeline service.

Families were informed 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. Following a massive outcry the council u-turned and some places have been reinstated – but many have been left ‘in limbo’ and told that they may not be able to get support in the future.

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The council is facing fresh questions after parents of children with additional support needs (ASN) said they have been left in the dark about childcare arrangements. Frustrated parents say the cuts will be detrimental to their children’s development and will also make it harder for them to work. It's understood nearly half of all school pupils in the city have an additional support need.

Edinburgh mum-of-two Gillian Coulter said her sons Jack and Max both attend an after-school clubEdinburgh mum-of-two Gillian Coulter said her sons Jack and Max both attend an after-school club
Edinburgh mum-of-two Gillian Coulter said her sons Jack and Max both attend an after-school club

A petition organised by parents against the cuts has gathered nearly 3,000 signatures and will be handed to the Lord Provost on Thursday. Edinburgh mum-of-two Gillian Coulter said her sons Jack and Max both attend an after-school club, with 10-year-old Jack, who has autism and ADHD, requiring extra support from ChildCare4All.

Two weeks before school started back she was told Jack could no longer attend the club. After pushing the council, he has since got a place back but Ms Coulter, 43, said she doesn’t know for how long.

The University student told the Evening News: “I received an email a couple of weeks before term started to tell me that Jack would no longer be able to attend his after school club and that’s the first we had heard about it.

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“When I broke the news to him he was very angry about it. He still asks, weeks later, am I allowed to go mum? Children with autism hold on to things. It has been devastating for him. He said, ‘why’s my brother allowed to go to after school club and I’m not?’ It has just seared through his heart.

“Socialisation with his neuro-typical peers and well as neuro-diverse peers, that’s huge for him. As a single parent it has been overwhelming. I had to spend the last week of the summer holidays fighting to get his place back."And she added that she has been ‘left in the dark’ about whether the support will be in place long-term. She said: "For those of us who have managed to claw some support back it’s still all up in the air. The only communication we’ve had said it’s in place for this term but we don’t know if it will carry on. Many in our group are left in the dark. They had applied but weren’t already receiving after school support so might not get any going forward.

"It has caused so much frustration and upset for families. The most important thing is the impact on the children who will miss out.”

Councillor Simita Kumar has called for an investigation into the ‘last-minute, chaotic and partial reinstatement for some of the families affected'. She said there has been ‘some’ support reinstated but this ‘doesn't go far enough’. Writing to the convener of the council’s education committee, she said: “The enhanced after school support is an essential and valuable service for our most vulnerable pupils and their families. The council must apologise to families and take immediate steps to mitigate the devastating impact on pupils by ensuring access to after school clubs is enabled for all children and young people who need additional support. Children and young people who desperately need this enhanced support to attend after school clubs have been badly let down.”

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A spokesperson for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “All families have been contacted and officers will continue to develop plans to provide support in a way that meets the needs of those young people.”

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