Saturday club for children with special needs to shut

Parents of children with special needs say they will be at a loss when their Saturday club closes down next month as a result of the cuts.

Up to 20 families will be affected when the council-funded Family Play Project, run at Stephen Hawking School in Limehouse, shuts on May 28.

The service is unique in that it caters for disabled children and those with special needs as well as any siblings without individual requirements.

Parents agree this winning formula helps family cohesion.

Maria Robertson, from Grahorn Close, Whitechapel said her ten-year-old son Frankie, who has Asperger’s, has become more sociable because of the club.

She said: “It’s one of the only services in London which deals with the whole family. It’s a safe place and parents don’t have to worry about the children.

“It’s really made a difference to my son’s behaviour.”

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Another parent, Jahanara Miah said: “Being a mother of a Down’s syndrome child, he gets to play in an enclosed, safe place with his brothers and sisters. The children can’t wait for Saturdays.”

Family Play Project (FPP) was set up ten years ago by family support charity Toyhouse Libraries.

It caters for children from birth to 11 and up to 60 children and parents use the two-hour weekly sessions.

Pip Pinhorn, Toyhouse manager, said: “Its loss is incredibly serious to all concerned. The families and Toyhouse think the council has failed in its duty to consult with users and providers before deciding to cut this project.”

Tower Hamlets has to make cuts of �72 million over the next three years and said it has reviewed all existing contracts.

It said all the families who use the Saturday club will be offered alternative help.

A spokeswoman added: “This contract was worth �30,240 and given that it supported families for just two hours a week, was considered to be a high cost service.”