Vulnerable Portsmouth families raise concerns they could be cut from 'invaluable' scheme

CONCERNS have been raised by vulnerable families in the city as lack of government funding could see them cut from an 'invaluable' scheme.

Sunday, 12th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 12th January 2020, 2:20 pm

Changes are set to be made the Portsmouth's pre-paid card system, which provides an annual sum for families with special educational or disability (Send) children to pay for group activities or out of school clubs.

If amendments to the scheme are approved at an education meeting next week families who are also awarded specialist short break packages will no longer be eligible. The value of the pre-paid card will also reduce from £300 to £250.

A total of 21 card-holders in the city provided feedback to the proposed changes.

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Portsmouth City Council's civic offices. Picture: César Moreno Huerta

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One parent voiced their worries. They said: 'If the card is withdrawn from us because we already have three nights of respite during the summer holidays we would struggle to pay for playscheme at a cost of £20 a day.

'When our daughter goes to playscheme it helps her to have some structure to the week during the holidays.

‘She goes two days a week and this also gives us a chance to spend some quality time with our other daughter and to have some time for ourselves to relax or get jobs done which cannot be done while caring for our daughter.'

Another said: 'I am somewhat stunned and very disappointed that you are proposing to cut the funding amount on the pre-paid card to families who greatly rely on it to have a much needed short break or family day out.'

The council's education boss, Councillor Suzy Horton, explained that the changes were necessary.

'We know these cards are really appreciated by families,' she said.

'The key thing is this is not actually a cut because we are spending the same amount of money but it's about how we get the money to go further.

'Ultimately we would like central government to give sufficient funds to meet the needs of every single family to make their lives better.

'But given the lack of funding this was the only way to make sure the number of families getting help overall wasn't cut while the numbers of Send children increases.

'Actually due to some of the changes we might be able to give more families pre-paid cards.'

There are currently 540 pre-paid cardholders in the city. It is thought around 100 of these also receive specialist short break packages.