Families with special needs children will not miss out on cash as Portsmouth councillor 'did not have the heart' for cuts

SOME of the city's most vulnerable families won't miss out on cash for activities and respite as planned after the council's education boss said she 'did not have the heart' to make cuts.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 11:26 am
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 2:50 pm
The Portsmouth City Council civic offices. Picture: César Moreno Huerta

Proposals had been made to limit pre-paid cards, which provide an annual sum to Portsmouth families with special educational needs children, to those who weren't also entitled to a specialist short break every year.

The change would have meant more families could benefit from the cards of £250 a year, which are mainly used for activities for the children or family treats such as meals out, although many who were used to them would have then missed out.

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But cabinet member for education, Councillor Suzy Horton, had fears for the 'negative impact' it would have on families missing out.

Speaking at an education meeting she said: 'What I try to do when I make a decision is track that through to the people at the end of the decision to see what impact that has on them.

'I met two families where I felt - and these were people who had entitlement to Beechside (the short break service) - the cut of the card would have a real negative impact on them.

'They gave me examples of what they could no longer do if this happened in terms of respite.

'Having met the families I just did not have the heart to do this.'

Tory spokesman for education, Cllr Terry Norton, agreed. 'For me we are saying it is not a cut because the number of people accessing it is increasing,' he said.

'But if I were in that position I would be banging down the door of the leader asking where you're going to get more money for this.'

He added: 'Surely this is something the administration should be looking to generate income for.

'It doesn't sit pretty with me.'

Cllr Horton agreed to two other proposals - to set the value of pre-paid cards every year, dependent on the estimated number of applications, and to change the system so families would have to re-apply every year.