Mother Of Two Who “Rely Heavily” On Service Concerned Over Reduced Budget
A legal challenge has been launched due to concerns that Lancashire County Council has failed to listen to parents, carers and service providers who are concerned that it’s county-wide short breaks service for disabled children is underfunded.
Lancashire Break Time provides short breaks for parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs or a disability (SEND) by hosting activities for the youngsters. The service entails a fun group activity for youngsters while their parent or carer gets a short break, of at least two hours, from their caring role.
Before setting the annual budget for Lancashire Break Time, the council consulted with parents and providers to get their views. The consultation documents suggest that:
1.There has been a notable and significant increase in demand for the Lancashire Break Time service since 2018; and
2.Providers of the service had advised Lancashire County Council that current funding levels (1) do not support them to staff groups safely and provide 1:1 support when needed and (2) do not take into account inflation and minimum wage.
Despite the apparent increased use and concerns raised by providers, the local authority decided to set the annual budget for the service at £765,000; £2,000 less than was spent on the service over the last year.
Specialist public law and human rights experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are acting for the family of Logan and Leila Wilding, from Lytham St Annes, who are concerned that the budget is not sufficient to enable the service to recruit and retain staff with the expertise needed.
Furthermore, the decision appears to be based on the proposed costs of a new version of the service, which has yet to be implemented. The legal experts argue that it is “irrational” due to the fact that the new version has not yet been put into effect, with the council still consulting about what the changes should be.
Expert Opinion“Logan and Leila’s family is understandably concerned at the decision to reduce the amount of funding available to run the Lancashire Break Time service.
It’s a vital service for many families, with it being the only social activity their children are involved in. Of course it’s also important for parents and carers to have a well-deserved break.
There are concerns that Lancashire County Council has failed to come to its decision lawfully without considering what funding is needed to take into account the apparent increased usage. The worries that have been raised by providers, parents and carers that the current funding is not sufficient should also be taken into account.
We call on the local authority to engage with those affected to find a solution and end the worry and upset experienced by our clients and other no doubt other families across the county.
We have now formally written to the Council to reconsider its decision or potentially face a judicial review in in the High Court.”
James Betts - Associate Solicitor
Twelve-year-old Logan and 10-year-old Leila Wilding are siblings who are heavily reliant on the Lancashire Break Time service.
Logan has severe dyspraxia, hyper mobility, weak muscles and joints, and difficulties with social communication. Leila has mild to moderate deafness, social communication difficulties, and is also being investigated in relation to suspected autism and Audio Processing Disorder.
The pair attend the Lancashire Break Time service known as Stars, which is run by Blackpool Football Club with Break Time funding, three to four days a week during school holidays.
Their mum Miranda Hyman said: “If it were not for this service, Logan would stay in his bedroom and not go out. He does not have any friends and does not socialise outside of attending the activities and outings provided by Lancashire Break Time.
“Those on the ground who run Stars are brilliant. The care and support they provide to all the families is second to none.
“However, the council’s decision to not increase the funding has left me worried that the funding available will not be sufficient to take on and keep staff with the skills needed to run the service.
“There will be many families in the same position as we are, that rely heavily on this service, and I hope that the council will listen to our concerns and reconsider the cuts to funding. There needs to be a solution that benefits everyone.”
A letter before action has been sent to Lancashire County Council asking them to reconsider the matter or face legal proceedings being issued. The lawyers have given Lancashire County Council until 4pm on Friday 22 May to respond.