Parents ask for service in Chichester to be saved

Parents who attend a special service which helps children with special needs have made a plea for it to be protected from cuts.

Theraplay, which is based at the Westhampnett Child Development Centre, is described as an ‘important, unique and vital’ service which helps pre-school children, especially those on the autistic spectrum.

It teaches children vital communication and social skills, and is much valued by both parents and children.

But parents fear its excellent work is threatened as a result of funding cuts by West Sussex County Council and the service is currently under review.

A meeting is due to take place this coming Tuesday in which parents will hear from the county’s principal manager for early childhood, Marilyn Barton.  

Jessica Craft takes her son Harry to the centre every fortnight. Harry, who is 20 months old, receives structured sessions, the chance to play with other children and do a variety of activities including song time with makaton signing.

“If services were to change Harry would most probably receive speech therapy around every four months due to a lack of therapists and time,” she said and described the service as gold standard.

“Not only is this such an outstanding service for the children it is also a valuable service for parents as well,” she said. “I have made great friendships with the other parents.

“We are a great support to each other and enjoy meeting each every week to discuss our child’s development, to be able to ask each other questions or talk about our clever children.”

She said the service was cost effective as therapists did not have to travel around and could work with several children in a two-hour session, and praised the communication between all the professionals involved who worked to give each child the best possible start in life.

In a letter to the county Mrs Craft said: “I very much hope the right decision is made and our gold standard joined-up service remains for years to come.”