PARENTS of children who have special needs are rueing the loss of an after-school club, with blame laid firmly at the door of local authority funding cuts.

The Short Breaks Activity Programme, backed by Hampshire County Council (HCC) and delivered by Andover and District Mencap at the Wellington Centre, has had its funding cut by a third.

This has meant while a service remains during school holidays, a term time after-school club is set to come to an end next month.

One parent, whose child attends the after-school club, said: “It’s leaving all these hard-working parents in limbo as to what to do with their children who have learning disabilities.

“You hear about this in the national papers but now it’s happening here locally.

“It’s a senseless act to be honest.”

HCC staged a consultation between March and June of last year. It sought to understand which of the programme’s features are most important to both children and parents or carers.

Respondents were asked what time they prefer their ‘short break’ to be.

According to the consultation findings, 69 per cent of respondents said having a break during the school holiday period was their first preference with just 10 per cent opting for weekday break sessions.

Chris Newman, director of care and support at Andover and District Mencap, said the organisation had tried to find ways to retain all elements of the service.

He said: “The reality is that HCC have had to make some funding cuts, and this is one of the impacts of that.

“I’ve tried to look at if we can deliver it, but we can’t without the council’s funding.

“It’s not that we don’t want to deliver – it’s that we can’t.”

Councillor Keith Mans, executive lead member for children’s service at HCCF said: “The public consultation on proposals to make changes to the Short Breaks Activities Programme took place in the spring of last year and was widely publicised through the media including social media channels, on our website, emails to all gateway card holders and via Hampshire Parent Carer Network.

"Many parents and carers provided their views and I would like to reiterate my thanks to all those who responded.

"The decision to make changes to the service was not easy and was made against the backdrop of a significant and continuing financial squeeze on local authorities which means we are having to prioritise the delivery of our statutory services.

“However, I remain well aware that those affected by our need to reduce non-statutory short break funding, face particular challenges on a daily basis, and that is why we continue to work closely with parents, carers and other stakeholders to define the short breaks activities which are most important to them and are looking to commission those from October 1.

“I can assure parents and carers that the programme will continue to offer a range of activities for children and young people with disabilities, enabling parents and carers to have a break from their caring responsibilities and have the opportunity to take part in education, training and leisure activities, complete day-to-day tasks or meet the needs of other children in the family.

“In Andover specifically, there are a range of opportunities for children and young people including Disability Challengers at Andover College and the YMCA at East Anton, as well as additional activities funded by Andover Mencap who currently provide support at the Wellington Centre.”