Clock is ticking for holiday club for disabled children
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
A children's centre which gives those with special needs a place to play while giving their families a much-needed break could be left homeless.
Mid Suffolk HOPS, which is currently based in Eye, desperately needs a new premises in order to carry on providing Saturday and school holiday clubs for children and young people with disabilities and additional needs.
They have been in their current building for 20 years but their lease will not be renewed as the site has been earmarked for housing.
Jackie Markell, who is the service manger at HOPS - which stands for Holiday Opportunity Play Scheme - has been trying to find a new building for the last three years but time is running out.
She said: 'We are really restricted in where we can go as we need something all on one level with wheelchair access throughout.
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'We need a big space because sometimes we can have four or five children in wheelchairs, as well as the other children with additional needs running round.
'We also need room for specialist equipment including hoists for changing and changing beds.
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'Trustees have made a decision that if we don't have funding or a building by March 2019 we will have to tell the parents we are closing.'
The group needs to quit their current site by September 29, 2019.
Jackie and her team ideally need somewhere along the A140 corridor between Diss and Needham Market or along the A14 between Needham Market and Stowmarket. However, once they have found a place there is still the issue of funding.
Mrs Markell, 55, feels the charity has reached a state of desperation.
She said: 'We apply for funding whenever we can but until we know what building we are going to move into, we don't know how much funding we are going to need.'
The play scheme currently supports 59 children, who are cared for by an extensive team of 70 volunteers.
Mrs Markell says she will be devastated if the charity has to close. 'If we were to close most children would be completely stuck as there isn't another place that takes the children we do.
'Our children can't access main stream activities as there isn't the support they need, most children attend special needs schools so we try to provide a continuity of care and keep them in a routine so it helps them settle back into school.'
She revealed that it is not only the children who would struggle but also their parents.
'I would be absolutely devastated. I benefited from HOPS myself as I have a son with special needs, without HOPS he would be in 52-week care because I couldn't cope. It helped me survive.
'It isn't until you have a child with special needs you realise how difficult life is. We all volunteer here because we can see there is a need. It isn't a job, it is just something we feel we need to do.'
Many of the volunteers working at HOPS are young and use the experience to help them onto the career ladder.
'It would be such a shame for youngsters, they use it as a spring board to go into social care and care work.
'There is a lot to worry about. This bit of Suffolk will lose a lot of future carers if HOPS was to close.'
• Hops currently has a donation page set up so supporters can offer financial help.
• If anyone knows of any buildings which they think could work for the charity you can contact the centre here.