45-year child learning service is axed by council

Lynn Lynch, manager of Pre School Learning Alliance, Clare Road, Halifax.
Lynn Lynch, manager of Pre School Learning Alliance, Clare Road, Halifax.

THE Pre-School Learning Alliance, which has worked with toddler groups across Calderdale for 45 years, has had its funding axed.

Calderdale Council has pulled the plug on the charitable service, which relied on its £130,000 annual funding.

Its work supported 70 children with special educational needs and disabilities by providing qualified support staff.

It was also linked to the national learning alliance and represented pre-schools and parent and toddler groups in discussions with Calderdale Council.

Manager Lynn Lynch said funding would run out in March and she was very disappointed.

Last month she was led to believe everything was positive for the annual commissioning process.

“Then, out-of-the-blue I have been told the council has changed its mind and there was no consultation,” she said.

“A letter was sent to our national organisation in London – a copy was not sent to me as manager of the service in Calderdale.

“After 45 years delivering services across Calderdale we could have been better treated. No senior officer contacted us.”

She has now written to councillors raising her concerns.

The service is based at Clare Road, Halifax, and employs four office staff and 11 support staff.

Mrs Lynch said new proposals from the council were a backward step.

“This service is not about accessing childcare it’s about children with very complex SEN or disabilities having access to specialised programmes,” she said.

“As Calderdale failed its Ofsted around safe guarding how can it withdraw a proven service to these vulnerable children and families?

“We have spoken to councillors who were not aware this decision had been taken.”

A Calderdale Council spokeswoman said it had made changes to provide a better service for children with better value for the council and the Pre-school Learning Alliance had been alerted of its intention.

“In January the council formally notified the Pre-school Learning Alliance that its contract would not be extended.

“In the new model, funding will be paid directly to the service provider, which will ensure that more money is available to support more children.

“This means the council can offer a range of ways to support children’s individual needs, including partnership working, increasing staff to child ratios and targeted training for childcare staff.”

According to the council, childcare providers had responded positively to the proposed changes and it would monitor the quality of provision and ensure children’s needs are met.