Parents of disabled children demand answers over Barnet Borough Council's cuts to short breaks scheme

This Is Local London: Sarah Sackman with Liora and Rahul Sarnaik Sarah Sackman with Liora and Rahul Sarnaik

Desperate parents have accused councillors of caring more about rubbish than their disabled children after they cut £38,000 of play activities – but spent £340,000 on a bins contract.

Oakleigh School, in Oakleigh Road North, Whetstone, is under threat of losing the OOPS Play Scheme, which gives disabled children and their parents respite over summer.

More than £307,000 has been slashed from Barnet Borough Council’s short breaks scheme, and a further £100,000 for similar programmes, including OOPS.

The cuts came just months after SSI Schaefer was handed a £340,000 contract to distribute 330,000 new recycling bins to homes across Barnet.

Earlier this year, the ruling Conservative group cut council tax by 23p a week, making an annual saving of roughly £12 a month per household - £1.3m a year.

Mapledown School, in Claremont Drive, Cricklewood, also fell victim to the cuts – but after a high-profile campaign, their schemes were given a stay of execution for another year.

On Monday evening, parents will bring their children to a meeting of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee in a last ditch attempt to reverse the cuts.

The Times Series spoke to parents during a meeting at the school yesterday. Here is what they said...

‘They don’t understand our daily struggles’

Koko Akpata’s son, Ized, seven, has drug resistant epilepsy and autism. She said: “They don’t understand what a tough life we have.

“Before they do this, they need to take a look at our children, at our daily struggles.

“They will take away so much more than just a play scheme.”

‘Don’t’

Rahul Sarnaik, whose daughter, Liora, has severe learning disabilities, epilepsy and a kidney problem, said: “There’s a lack of joined up thinking here. If they took this away, it will put more pressure on social services.

“It’s a godsend – they clearly don’t see how much of a difference it makes to our lives. It’s baffling.

“If I could tell the councillors one thing, it would simply be this: don’t.”

‘Don’t they deserve a good life too?’

Margaret Owen’s son, Joe, five, has a development delay. She said: “Our children are the future Mapledown. We want them to have a good start in life. Don’t they deserve at least that?

“What do they have if they can’t come here? They don’t understand the daily stress and pressures we are under.”

'Don’t confuse apathy for empathy if we're not at that meeting'

Rose Charles cares for her grandchildren Ben, 17 and Sophie, 7. Neither can swallow, so both are tube-fed. Ben’s also needs a wheelchair and oxygen equipment.

Although she is planning on bringing her grandchildren to the meeting on Monday, her grandchildren’s disabilities mean she cannot always plan ahead.

She said: “If we aren’t all there, the councillors must not confuse apathy for empathy.

“I wish they would come and live my life for just one day. Then maybe they will be a bit more compassionate in making these cuts.

“Last year they spent £340,000 on a bins contract. Do our children mean less to them than the rubbish? How is that meant to make us feel? It’s a disgrace.

“Why are our vulnerable, disabled children bearing the brunt of these cuts?”

Parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Hendon, Sarah Sackman, said: “For a borough of this size, all this money should be a drop in the ocean.

“We want to live in a borough we’re proud of, how can we be proud of this?”

Barnet Borough Council said it could not comment.

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