SHETLAND Islands Council has been accused of discrimination after halving its support for youth clubs for disabled children, while maintaining support for mainstream youth clubs.
Publicly-funded youth club services for disabled kids have already been outsourced to the local charity Disability Shetland, which now runs a number of well-attended clubs across the isles.
However the council is now proposing to halve the money it pays the charity for its children services from £30,000 to £15,000.
The blow came at the same time Disability Shetland learned that its application for a £175,000 five-year funding package to the National Lottery has been turned down.
That news came as a huge shock as the lottery had given no warning of the knock back throughout the lengthy 18-month application process.
In spite of the latest setbacks, two Disability Shetland fundraisers said they were all the more determined to make their sponsored West Highland Way hike a success.
Veteran fundraiser Sandy Peterson and newly elected Disability Shetland chairman Kenny Groat are setting off from Milngavie, near Glasgow, on 26 May and are hoping to complete the 96 mile route in one week.
Peterson said: “Our parents say that they feel discriminated against. Last year the SIC found some money to keep local mainstream youth clubs going, and now there is no money for youth clubs for disabled children.”
As of April the SIC said it would still pay Disability Shetland for providing the ASN Holiday Club (£15,150), but would stop spending £15,300 on funding the Lerwick children’s Saturday club.
“The SIC seems to be saying that it is important to have holiday clubs but not regular weekly clubs for disabled kids – that’s not very inclusive,” Peterson said.
The council’s head of children’s services, Helen Budge, said it had had been her decision to reduce the funding for the youth services the charity provides.
She said her department was fully behind supporting the holiday scheme, but felt that young people with disabilities could benefit from participating in the mainstream youth clubs the council provides.
“We do have a number of youth clubs across Shetland and all children including those with disabilities are welcome to attend. There is a general provision of activities and most children will be able to participate,” she said.
Budge added that members of Disability Shetland were very welcome to accompany the children in their care.
Meanwhile, Peterson said that local fundraising has now become a “bread and butter” necessity for the charity.
“It is quite clear to me, if we want to keep Disability Shetland going, then we need to do fundraising.”
The proceeds of their latest fundraising effort will go towards the charity’s adults sport club, which meets every Monday at Clickimin and regularly attracts up to 30 participants.
Chairman Kenny Groat said his family – his daughter Alana, his wife Yvonne and himself – had benefitted greatly from the work Disability Shetland has been doing over the years.
“I am trying to give something back. We have had so much help over the years and Alana has benefitted tremendously from the work the charity does,” he said.
Donations are can be made via this Just Giving page or by handing in cheques or cash to Market House, in Lerwick.
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