Charity faces wait to see if funds will be axed

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A CHARITY which helps children with Down Syndrome faces an anxious wait to see if its funding will be cut.

Down Syndrome Education International, known as Downsed, operates at the Sarah Duffen Centre in Belmont Street, Southsea, and is well known for its work helping meet the educational needs of children.

The charity receives funding from Portsmouth City Council each year to help give classroom support to children with Down Syndrome in mainstream schools.

But as the city council tightens its belt, Downsed chief executive Frank Buckley is concerned that he may not be able to offer this service from April. Instead, the council could look at making other arrangements for the children helped by Downsed.

Mr Buckley said: 'Where council funding is involved we provide a consulting service to schools and local education authorities about how to improve education for Down Syndrome children.

'Last year we were given 21,000 to provide this service, but this might not be renewed for the coming year.

'There are 14 children in Portsmouth schools that benefit from our funding. Money is being given to the city council by central government to fund these services, but this money is not being lost.

'So I don't understand where the money is going if it will not be funding us.

'Secondly the city council has an obligation to provide this service to schools, so if they don't come to us, I would like to know who else will be giving it.

'We have the best experience and qualifications to deliver these services so it will be interesting to see what replaces us.'

Julian Wooster, strategic director for the city council, said: 'We're working hard to find ways to save money with a minimal impact on residents - especially those who are most vulnerable.

'In the case of Downsed, we're looking at alternative sources of funding.

'We've already approached schools to find out whether they wish to continue to fund Downsed from their own budgets, either individually or collectively.

'We're supportive of schools either individually or in clusters purchasing Downsed services.

Schools are currently given a budget statement on an annual basis which details the portion that should be used for special educational needs.

'I must emphasise no decisions have been made and should councillors agree to a different approach there would clearly be a need for a transition period.'

The decision on whether to continue funding the service will be made before a full council meeting on February 8.