When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Eastleigh parents' cash plea to save vital group for autistic youngsters
PARENTS are calling for urgent help as the future of a vital facility for autistic children in Hampshire hangs in the balance.
Friends of In Touch, a group of parents that run the In Touch Project for Eastleigh youngsters, are holding a fundraising event.
The parents currently have enough money to keep it going for another year, but beyond that is uncertain.
They have raised around £25,000 in the last year, but more is needed.
A Valentine’s Ball is being held tomorrow, at the Pavilion on the Park, in Eastleigh, from 8pm to 11pm.
In Touch offers sessions for six to 21-year-olds with autistic spectrum disorder and other socialisation problems at The Bridge Education Centre, in Eastleigh, and the Y-Zone Youth Centre, in Fair Oak.
Run by staff and volunteers, they build children’s self-esteem, improve socialisation and give them life skills. Youngsters do cooking lessons, drawing, go to restaurants and theatres, while staff are able to monitor their progress and give parents respite.
Set up through Government initiative the Children’s Fund, In Touch was managed and run by Hampshire County Council but also relied on grants from various sources.
Changes following a shake-up in early 2011 led to the parents deciding to continue running the project themselves.
Since taking over, many unseen costs have become apparent like rent for the buildings and hiring extra staff. Added to that, funding sources have dried up.
In Touch got a £17,000 council grant for this year, which means it can run the service until March 2014.
But they need to fundraise on top of that to be sustainable as it needs around £30,000 to run properly.
Organisers say having to apply every year for the grant means there is no guaranteed funding.
Committee member Clare Norcott, 38, from Eastleigh, has been taking her son Sean, 15, for the last six years.
She said: “It’s vital. Sean has no other ways of socialising. He feels part of something. I don’t know what I’d do if it closed.”
Cllr Roy Perry, county council Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “If this voluntary group is struggling then we would very much like them to talk to us so we can see how we can help them continue to develop their services.”
Ball tickets cost £10 – to purchase email firstname.lastname@example.org.