Council axes contracts worth £200,000 with disabilities charity

4:30pm Wednesday 2nd February 2011

By Elizabeth Pears

THE mother of an autistic boy has spoken of her heartache over the threat to his after-school playgroup as the council struggles to manage its beleaguered finances.

Ruth Cowan, of Lancaster Road, said she burst into tears when she received the letter revealing Haringey Council had pulled the plug on contracts totalling £200,000 which fund the Markfield Project's playschemes and after-school clubs.

The independent charity, rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted, runs the sessions to give stressed out parents much-needed respite from caring for their disabled children.

It is also an opportunity for them to make friends and play in an understanding environment tailored to their needs under the guidance of specialist staff.

The furious mum blasted the Prime Minister and his Government for the severe spending cuts putting services for disabled children in jeopardy that Mr Cameron, whose son Ivan had cerebral palsy, had pledged to protect.

Mrs Cowan said: "I know it sounds dramatic but I really cried when I found out. I am heartbroken for my son who just lives to go to Markfield. On Tuesdays there is a bounce in his step and when he comes home his face is beaming.

"With autistic children it is difficult for them to adapt to a new environment and before he started at Markfield I worried if it would work out. But he loves it, and is so comfortable there thanks to the wonderful staff. It is hard to find a place with that magical formula and now in one swoop everything has been wiped away."

She added: "David Cameron had a son with a disability and he claimed to know how challenging it can be, yet, ultimately, he is the one behind these terrible cuts. Children, especially those with disabilities like autism, have no voice. Society is judged by how they treat their most vulnerable and disabled children are the most vulnerable of all."

Sarah Miller, Markfield Project's director, said the charity, in Markfield Road, and it's trustees were "very worried" and faced an agonising wait to find out what funding would be available from April.

She said: "We are not the only ones in this position but, of course, we are worried. Until April, we simply do not know what funding will be available. At that point, the trustees will have to look hard at our finances and make any decisions on whether or not we can afford to keep staff if the contracts are not there.

The director added: "Haringey Council has been supportive over the years and we know it is because of Government spending cuts that we all find ourselves in this position. We hope we can continue to work with the council to get the best deal for those who value what we do here."

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