Disabled charity faces crisis – Bright Sparks in Bonnyrigg faces a loss of funding

PARENTS fear disabled school children could lose out on vital support if a struggling out-of-school club is forced to close.

Bonnyrigg-based charity Bright Sparks has run a twice-weekly facility for youngsters since summer last year.

But now it faces a funding shortfall and organisers say that unless they can find financial backing they will be forced to end the service.

Lloyds TSB and The Robertson Trust had provided funding for an initial 12 months following a successful 10-week pilot of the group last year.

However. that cash has now dried up, sparking fears that the club might fold by Christmas unless big-hearted individuals step forward with donations.

Based at the Cockpen Centre, Bright Sparks is run by a management committee made up of parent volunteers who give their time freely.

The centre itself is for children aged 12 or below who have significant complex difficulties, and their families. Louise Gough, chairman of the management committee, explained that the charity – which also provides a vital respite service for parents – needs around £7,500 to fund another 30-week programme.

She said: “The club has been very successful, supporting 22 families with another 34 on a waiting list.

“These are families that are not going to get support from anywhere else.

“We recognise that we are never going to get through our waiting list, but it would be great to put on a third session and provide respite care for another 15 children.

“At the very least, we want to continue with sessions on a Monday evening and Saturday afternoon.” Ms Gough added that the benefits of the group and the help provided made it good value for money.

“Our service is the cheapest around,” she said. “The council pays thousands of pounds to other organisations for respite services, and yet for some reason they turned down our request for help.“

Grateful parents who have benefitted from the service have taken to the Bright Sparks Facebook page to offer their support for the club.

Yvonne Paris said: “Just wanted to say a massive thank you guys.

“Not only do you provide a safe environment for our kids and take us on so many great trips, the support you give parents is amazing

“You have provided information that otherwise I would never have known.”

But a council spokesman said: “Bright Sparks has not officially applied to the council for funding.

“We have been supporting the organisation, as the council provides the building and covers all costs associated with this, such as heating, lighting, IT services and teaching staff.

“We also gave them advice on how to apply for funding.”