Sad to go - but help us celebrate achievements

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With sadness, we regret to announce the forthcoming closure of the Calderdale Sub-Committee of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, due to the Local Authority’s decision to terminate our contract for the provision of the Inclusion Service.

The PLA is a leading early years membership organization, and one of the largest providers of quality childcare in England. It offers support to over 14,000 settings and impacts positively on the care and education of over 800,000 children and their families every year.

In Calderdale, the PLA has provided 44 years of service to children in our community. For the past 21 years, we have run the hugely successful Inclusion Service, which supports pre-school children with additional needs or disabilities in mainstream childcare settings. Parents feel confident leaving their children, (some of whom have complex needs, such as tube-feeding, or specific medical requirements), to enjoy the same opportunities any other child in a pre-school would have access to, including the early years curriculum and social interaction with peers, whilst being cared for individually by our highly trained and dedicated support staff.

Through our Service Level Agreement, over the last eight years we have supported 341 children so far, and exceeded our agreed targets. We were therefore shocked when, in January, we were informed by the Local Authority that funding for the service would cease after the 31st March, despite the fact that up until that point we had been working with them to prepare for a commissioning process.

We were not consulted about these changes, and neither were the parents of children who use the service. We believe this lack of consultation fails to meet the Local Authority’s SEN Pathfinder status criteria, whereby parents and children are supposed to be consulted in designing services that meet their needs.

It also fails on the Pathfinder principle that disabled children are best supported by people they already know - removing our staff midway through the school year breaks the continuity of care and disrupts children’s routines.

Whilst the Local Authority states that an alternative service would be available for settings to access for 6 months, it gives no indication of future plans. What will happen in September to those children who are not yet moving up to school; or to those children who would just be ready to use the service? Parents of younger children who have yet to go through the system may not even be aware of what they could be missing out on if there is no provision from September.

Naturally, we are extremely concerned at the impact this will have on disabled children and their families. We feel disappointed and let down by various Council Officers’ complete lack of response to our emails and telephone calls in which we have attempted to discuss these issues.

We are also concerned for our wonderful team of support staff - fourteen in total - who now find themselves being made redundant. Not only have they have made a significant difference to many children’s early years education, they have also built up personal relationships with those children and their families, and given up their free time to attend training events to make them the highly skilled and dedicated team they are. What a waste, Calderdale Council.

Likewise, Lynn and Joyce, our Sub-Committee Manager and Deputy, will also be made redundant. Lynn has worked tirelessly for the PLA for 23 years, proving a tenacious force to be reckoned with when fighting for the rights of children in Calderdale. Joyce has been with the PLA since 1987. Like Lynn, her ethos is always to put children’s needs first. She has tutored classes in childcare qualifications, and is currently the Inclusion Service manager, ensuring the smooth running of our quality service in settings on a daily basis.

Despite cuts to their hours over the years, Lynn and Joyce have always managed somehow to make time for groups or individuals who need support, and it will be a great loss when they are gone.

The committee would also like to thank Helen and Elaine, our extremely hard-working office staff, who do a terrific job behind the scenes with huge volumes of administration.

We want to extend our thanks as well to our member groups - those pre-schools and nurseries in Calderdale who support us year after year, making donations and turning up to the AGM. We are sorry Lynn and Joyce can no longer come out to visit you when you need their help, but we are hoping to put something in place for you very soon through the Kirklees and Wakefield Sub-Committee.

In the meantime, we have a very special occasion we hope you can all attend - our farewell celebration of 44 years in Calderdale. This will be held at the Shay Stadium, HX1 2YS on Monday 26th March, 7 - 9pm. We would like to invite anyone who has ever been associated with Calderdale PLA to thank you for your support - staff and parents from member groups, staff who have trained with us, former committee members, parents of children who have used the service, etc.

Come and join us to celebrate our achievements for children over the last half century; we very much look forward to seeing you there. Please call the office on 01422 321368 to reserve your place by Monday 19th March.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years,

Victoria Burge - Treasurer,

Cald PLA Sub-Committee,

Friends Meeting House,

Clare Road