CAMPAIGNERS pleading for a rethink over plans to slash funding for trips and activities for disabled children have been given fresh hope for a stay of execution.
Hampshire bosses on an influential committee this morning recommended that cost cutting plans for the short breaks service should be postponed for a year to find other ways for paying for it.
Under the proposals the scheme, which provides respite for parents, would have its funding cut from £2.8m to £1m next year.
The county councillors' recommendations followed passionate pleas from parents who argued the cutbacks would place impossible strain on them and may even lead to the breakup of families and some children going into care.
A final decision is set to be made after a 12 week consultation process in the Autumn.
The plans will come into force next year after going before full council.
Children's service boss cllr Keith Mans told the committee: “I would like to stress that any decision I take will take into account what I have heard today.
“This is not the end of the process.
“There is still a fair amount of work to do.”
Mum Denise Wyatt from Bordon in the New Forest, said the short breaks services are vital for families.
She said: “Families need this respite or they will reach breaking point.
“I have experienced years of sleep deprivation trying to cope with a child that does not sleep, self harms, cries and shouts because of his confusion of the world and has no concept of danger.
“Breaking point is a term used by Mencap to explain the moment of crisis for a carer where they become so emotionally exhausted they feel they can't go on.
“Research by Mencap shows 8 out of 10 family carers have reached, or are close to reaching, breaking point because of the lack of short breaks.”
Mum Carol Dixon from Lee-on-the-Solent, who is also programme manager for the disabled information and advice service Parent Voice, said the service should be maintained to comply with UN children's human rights laws and Government legislation regarding childcare.
She added: "I absolutely understand that budget cuts are needed and the programme could be run more efficiently, but it needs to be a phased approach for the funding cuts."
Tanzie Smith, nine, who has Down's syndrome handed in a petition with 1000 names against the cuts.
Committee member and Dibden and Hythe county councillor Malcom Wade said: “In this case it is a cut too far. I became a councillor to help people's lives and I will not be part of something that will destroy it.”
Former county council leader Ken Thornber seconded an amendment that was then voted through, recommending putting off for a year to find a way of keeping the present service.
A motion for a recommendation was also put forward by Fareham county councillor Chris Wood which was to not to reduce the current level of provision but to achieve that same level at reduced cost.
The committee meeting came after cross party members of a ‘task and finish group’ spent six months of finding ways to make £1.8million of savings to fill the gap after cuts.
Among their recommendations would be sharing costs with schools, academies, introducing volunteers, fundraising and to look at some families paying for the short breaks themselves.
Cllr Wood, who took part, said: "I am very proud that after 6 months of hard work, on a cross party basis, we have identified £1.8m worth of savings, protected the service in its entirety and extended the length of time available to charities to increase their fundraising.
“I am immensely proud that my motion to protect the service passed because it is so vitally important to the children and their parents that this service is retained".