Parents of children and young people with special needs fear a local centre described as “a lifeline” may be earmarked for closure.
Regular users of facilities provided by the Young People’s Activity Team, known as YPAT, in Ravensthorpe have a wide range of permanent and substantial disabilities including autism and Down syndrome.
Now, following a flurry of questionnaires, a private consultation and an invitation from Kirklees Council asking for one-to-one meetings there is growing suspicion that the centre in Havelock Street is to shut.
Run by Kirklees Council’s Children & Young People Service, YPAT is open to young people aged five to 18. Users are referred by social workers who carry out an assessment.
Services include summer play schemes, holiday clubs and trips to attractions as varied as ice cream parlours and trampolining centres.
Anne Robinson, whose 20-year-old son Will has attended YPAT for more than a decade, believes the council may be trying to reduce services or close YPAT entirely by stealth.
“No one has said officially that the service is going to close,” she said.
“Staff have been cagey which makes us suspicious,” she said. “We have been bombarded with questionnaires since September. That has never happened before. It’s led me to believe that there is something going on that we aren’t being told about. We have smelled a rat.”
Anne, who lives in Mirfield, recently met with YPAT staff and a representative from Parents of Children with Additional Needs Making a Difference in Kirklees to discuss Will’s use of the centre. Will, who is on a personal development course at Kirklees College, currently attends a weekly youth club for 18-25 year olds. He has Down syndrome.
And in speaking with other parents she said she was led to believe that there was a question mark over the future of the service.
“YPAT has really helped Will develop his social skills. It’s important for him to be away from us and with people of his own age. Where would young people like him go if that facility was to close?
“Some parents’ lives are so full up with caring that they barely lift their heads up for anything else. YPAT is a lifeline that we can’t afford to lose.”
A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “The council spent six weeks engaging with stakeholders on how to reshape the leisure and activities service for children and young people.
“They spoke to service users and their families as well as other interested stakeholders in order to help shape a proposal for the future.
“The feedback is currently being considered and the aim is to take a report on this to Cabinet in January.”