Playwell is under threat. Laura Watts writes:
Funding cuts mean the scheme faces the axe, a prospect that will leave many families struggling to cope, and additional Saturday provision under threat. The cost to the government in terms of families returning to benefits is estimated to be £480,000, not including emergency respite care.
Playwell was set up by Parks for Play, a Kings Heath charity that promotes inclusive community activities for children, in response to demand from local parents with disabled children. In addition to caring for children, the project has led to the creation of 20 jobs – an achievement that should not be overlooked according to chair of Parks For Play Amanda Bradley:
Many of these parents wanted to work but were failing to find suitable childcare provision. We believe that it is a right, not a luxury, for families to have equitable access to work, particularly in this economic climate.
Playwell has enabled twenty parents to gain or maintain employment this year where potential benefit traps loomed. The eventual hard-won investment in Playwell has saved the council at least ten times their outlay in benefit support and the impact on children and families meets a host of desirable outcomes for parents and child health, wealth and well-being. Now the service is under threat
Parks For Play raises funding to subsidise the true cost of Playwell so that families with disabled children can pay standard childcare fees in line with equalities legislation.
Grants from Birmingham City Council through Early Years and Childcare, Shorts Breaks for Disabled Children and significantly the Employment Access Team, Development & Culture and the Flexible Support Fund from Job Centre Plus ensured that this service emerged and survived.
Playwell runs from Uffculme ASD specialist school in Moseley which has lent critical support to the initiative serving children from a number of local schools. It is hoped that the model will be duplicated at Hamilton specialist school in Handsworth. Tributes to Playwell have poured in on the news that it may have to close:
Without this service I would not have been able stay in work. Playwell has really progressed my sons social interaction and development.
I can’t thank Playwell enough. They have saved our lives this year.
Playwell allows me to keep my job going in very difficult circumstances. It has really broadened my son's experiences.
Amanda Bradley added
Disabled children and their families face the poverty of forced unemployment, social exclusion and immense pressures.Playwell also offers families emergency respite for parents dealing with crisis or other ongoing family commitments.
It gives children with additional needs the opportunity to socialise with peers in their community developing in creative ways that can only be facilitated through play.