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Havering autism charity set to close youth clubs in Romford and Rainham over funding row with Havering Council

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 May 2018

The Sycamore Trust set up an Autism Hub in The Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford in 2015. Photo: Ellie Hoskins

The Sycamore Trust set up an Autism Hub in The Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford in 2015. Photo: Ellie Hoskins

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A local charity supporting children with autism says two of its youth clubs in Romford and Rainham will have to close at the end of this month after Havering Council “slashed” its funding.

The Sycamore Trust, which runs services for autistic youngsters across Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham, was informed last week that ongoing discussions with Havering Council around its continued funding had not found a workable solution.

As a result of this, two of the charity’s youth clubs in the borough will be forced to close at the end of this month unless new sources of funding can be found.

The two projects set to close are the Yew Tree Club in Romford which helps 13–18-year-olds and the Royals Club in Rainham which helps even younger children aged from 8-13.

Both programmes began in 2006 and have helped hundreds of young people over the past 12 years with vital life skills.

The charity claims Havering Council has changed the criteria used to determine which children receive support and that almost all the children who attend the clubs no longer qualify for help.

Chris Gillbanks, Sycamore Trust UK CEO, is bitterly disappointed at the decision.

She said: “When we are forced to close these youth clubs, it will be with great sadness. We need to do more to help the most vulnerable members of society, not less.

“The clubs have been helping young people in Havering for the past 12 years and the results are there for all to see.”

But Havering Council insists charity bosses have been aware a funding review was underway since as early as December – when the local authority agreed to supply additional funding for The Sycamore Trust’s short breaks programme – and that a proposed new funding system which would have seen the council pay per head was rejected by the charity.

Councillor Robert Benham, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Throughout this process the local authority have been in close communication with the Sycamore Trust.

“The trust have recently decided not to continue to deliver services under this ‘short breaks’ contract.

“The council will ensure that an alternative offer is provided to residents and we are continuing to discuss options for funding with the trust.”

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