Town council backs new support club

children holding red thumbs up items

Children having fun with foam thumbs up items - Credit: Accuro

A new club to support children with a disability to meet and make friends will launch in Saffron Walden this year and if the pilot scheme is successful it will be replicated across West Essex.

Saffron Walden town councillors on Monday night unanimously backed Accuro's new Under 8's Stay and Play scheme and approved a £600 grant towards the project and staff costs.

Sue Fishpool of the charity said the sessions will also support parents and carers with information, with a chance to meet other parents and not feel so isolated, and to have respite time to get a coffee if they wish. It will also support younger siblings who can  take part. 

Finance and Establishment Committee chairman Jonathon Toy said: "This is probably one of the best applications we have seen, it's really well thought through." 

He said they were aware that some families were in crisis through the impact of the pandemic, and he said the number of people considering suicide through the Covid period has increased.

Cllr Toy said the maximum grant was £300 but the council had a crisis fund. Councillors unanimously agreed that council officers will work out which pot of money the cash comes from.

Committee member and mayor Heather Asker suggested Accuro also approaches district councillors for support.

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The weekly two-hour drop-in sessions will run 48 weeks per year. They are currently talking to potential venues. But the meeting heard that participants might have to pre-register attendance because of Covid awareness requirements.

Sue said that for some families that first contact with Accuro, sometimes just after diagnosis, started lifelong support. The grant application said that children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) are twice as likely to be bullied regularly, and a Scope report found that 85 percent of disabled young people feel lonely.

Councillors heard that Essex County Council, Action for Children and Accuro’s own survey found there is a real shortage of services for those under age eight in West Essex. Saffron Walden Opportunities Playgroup, the Butterflies SEN group, ceased in April 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.