Reading Borough Council is increasing the amount of money it gives to voluntary groups who provide short breaks for children with learning difficulties and their families.
Short breaks provide a vital lifeline for many parents of children with learning difficulties by allowing them some much-needed rest time, while their children take part in fun and educational activities away from the care of their parents.
Over the last two years, Reading Borough Council has commissioned local voluntary sector organisations to provide a range of these services for disabled children and their families. Feedback from the families themselves is that those services could be better tailored towards children with certain complex health issues, and also across a wider variety of age ranges.
This year, as a result of that direct feedback, the Council is proposing to re-distribute funding across voluntary organisations which can deliver the range of services parents say they need. At the same time, the funding pot for short breaks and information for children with learning difficulties is increasing from £126,994 for 2011/12 to £131,650 for the coming year.
Voluntary groups were invited to submit their bids to the Council to deliver the key services earlier this year. Bids were received from 22 organisations, totalling over £400,000. These were evaluated in detail by a panel which included three parent/carers from the Reading Families Forum, as well as Council officers.
As a result of that process it is being proposed this funding is split across eight organisations. They are: Dingley Family and Specialist Early Years Centres, Marshlands Square, Thumbs Up Club, Heathermount (Disabilities Trust), Berkshire Autistic Society, Reading Mencap, Brookfields Parents' Association and Talkback.
The remainder of the funding will go to provide a short break information service for families with disabled children and for activity weekends for young people. The Council will continue to support black and ethnic minority families who have disabled children through the core grant to Alafia.
John Ennis, Reading's Lead Councillor for Education and Children's Services, said: 'At a time when council budgets are under obvious pressures, I am delighted to be able to announce plans to increase the total amount of money going to voluntary groups who help the council provide these vital services. I have nothing but admiration for the parents and families of children with learning difficulties. It was important to reflect the views of the people who use the services and I'm pleased their direct feedback is helping to shape the services available to them in the future.'
A Decision Book on the proposed Voluntary Sector Provision for Short Breaks for Disabled Children was published on Friday 9th March.