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After-school clubs for Darlington kids face closure
AN after-school club service for the most disadvantaged children in Darlington is set to close at the end of this month.
The open access play scheme, which operates clubs at venues in the town’s 11 most deprived wards, will close as Darlington Borough Council is not renewing its contract with Groundwork North East to run the sessions.
The clubs are open to five to 13-year-olds and parents pay a nominal fee for their children to benefit from organised games and sports.
Parent Leanne Preston, 23, of Thames Way, sends sons Ellis, seven, and Elliott, five, to the twice-weekly club at Skerne Park Community Centre and said she was “gutted” when she heard the sessions were closing.
“My boys love it, it’s the highlight of their week when they know they are coming here,” said Miss Preston.
“I hope that something can be done to save it.”
Paul Harman, secretary of the Park East Community Partnership, and a Park East ward councillor, said the loss of the service is yet another blow to the town’s poorest residents.
“We want to make the point to the government and the general public that this is what the cuts mean.
“The cuts are hitting home for everybody now, but particularly for people in disadvantaged areas like this (Park East) who may be hit by the bedroom tax and cuts to other benefits, while at the same time things like the play service are being lost.
“You are being hit three times over, particularly if you are not well off.”
Cyndi Hughes, Darlington Council cabinet member for children and young people, said the council had already extended the contract with Groundwork for an extra two years, but could not fund it any longer due to government cuts.
She added: “We are being positive and working hard at trying to find other ways of keeping these things going, and the schools will have to step up.
“We all understand how positive after school activities are for young people.”
The only hope for the play service to continue is if £150,000 of external funding can be secured by March 31.