CAMPAIGNERS are pleading with county bosses to rethink plans to slash funding for trips and activitites for disabled children that allow parents respite.

As part of wide ranging cuts to save £26million from the county council's children's services, funding for its short breaks services is to be slashed from £2.8m to £1m.

But parents and charity workers say this will put impossible strain on them and their families and have launched a petition against it.

The plans are coming under scrutiny this morning (Wednesday) at the county council's children and young person select committee on July 23.

Jason Carlisle, Royal Mencap Society campaign officer for south of England, said: “We at Mencap urge Hampshire County Council to reconsider its proposed cuts and to protect its short breaks services for people with a learning disability and their families “At Mencap we believe in the vital role of short breaks for children and adults with a learning disability and their families.

“The huge reduction in available short breaks in Hampshire will leave families struggling to cope and close to reaching breaking point, a situation in which they believe they can no longer go on with the way things are.”

Michala Dominey, participation co-ordinator of Hampshire Parent Carer Network, said: “Hampshire County Council have given us a great short breaks service over the past few years.

“They have provided a service for parents that have never had a break from caring, an opportunity for disabled children to have fun and to access mainstream activities, for isolated children to take part in an array of activities, for the community buddy scheme, the gateway card, website and parent voice.

“Specialist school holiday, Saturday and after school play schemes for the more disabled of our children costs more than £1m alone.

“They now want to take it all away from us. We cannot let this cannot happen.”

Denise Wyatt, of New Forest East Labour Party, and parent of a disabled child herself, said: “These cuts will push struggling exhausted families further into crisis and this will result in an increase in the number of disabled children being placed in care.

“This is short-sighted and has far greater cost implications.

“Short Beaks are essential to disabled children and parents. Families are buckling under the strain.

“Disabled vulnerable children must be supported. The cost to society and the economy will be much more in the long run. In financial terms it's a no-brainer.”

But children's services boss Cllr Keith Mans said: “Children's Services must find savings totalling £26million by 2015 as a result of cuts in Government grant and other pressures - including growth in demand for social care.

“As part of this, we are developing proposals for reducing expenditure on the discretionary aspects of provision, including the short breaks programme and reducing the cost of overnight short breaks - while seeking to retain the quantity of overnight respite that can be provided.

“We are intensely aware of how important short breaks are to children, young people, their families and carers but, as much as we would like to, we cannot sustain the current level of funding and at the same time meet our obligation to provide statutory services such as safeguarding - where we are seeing significant growth in the number of children coming into care.”