Leeds Mencap have run a specialist playroom for children with learning disabilities for over 50 years. For the past 10 years or so the playroom has been open 3 days a week and children with a learning disability aged between 0 and 3 years have attended on one day a week. The playroom runs alongside a family support service. Parents and carers of the children attending the playroom can meet together with other parents and also get one to one support and advice from a family support worker.
Both the playroom and the family support service are funded by Leeds Mencap’s fundraising efforts, mostly grants from Trusts but also some amazing support and fundraising carried out by families who attend the playroom. We are finding it increasingly difficult to raise enough money to cover the full cost of running both services. We are fortunate to have funding from Comic Relief for the family support service until early 2023. However, we currently do not have any funding for the specialist playroom beyond December 2020.
As well as the funding challenges there are some other challenges that we need to address that we have identified through the many years of running the playroom:
· We know that parents and carers would like their child to continue to receive specialist play and development support from the age of 3 until they go to school.
· We know that the earlier the child can receive specialist play support the better as this helps the child to make the most of this crucial time in their development.
· We know that for some parents and carers who would like to return to work/training the 5 hours a week we offer is not enough and we currently need parents/carers to stay in the building.
To address these challenges our proposal is to create a specialist playroom for 0 – 5 year olds with learning disabilities, autism or other developmental delay, that is integrated into Jimbo’s Community Nursery, our mainstream nursery run from The Vinery Centre in East Leeds.
0 – 2 year olds will be able to attend an intensive developmental play and support session. Parents and carers will stay in the building and be able to meet other parents attending and get support from the family support worker. This element of the service will continue to be funded by Leeds Mencap’s fundraising efforts and we will ask parents to contribute a fee towards the cost of the session.
The 0 – 2 developmental play sessions will prepare children and parents/carers for the child’s move into the 2 – 5 year old specialist playroom or to another nursery or SILC (Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre) nursery place.
Children aged 2+ will be able to attend for any number of hours from 3 hours up to a full time place of 50 hours per week (8am – 6pm Mon – Friday). FEEE (Free Early Education Entitlement) funding will be available for children aged 2+ subject to eligibility and Leeds Mencap staff will support parents and carers in applying for any funding they are entitled to as well as any additional funding to support the particular needs of each child where possible. Parents/carers will need to pay fees for any hours that are additional to their government funded place. Family support will be available for parents/carers of those children aged 2 – 5 attending the specialist playroom by appointment.
The 2 – 5 specialist playroom will give the opportunity for children to attend specialist nursery provision and will prepare children for the transition to a mainstream primary school place.
Leeds Mencap will continue to fundraise to enhance the level of provision across the whole 0 – 5 specialist playroom.
We need to understand whether there is going to be a demand for the new service and whether it meets families’ needs. We hope that you will be able to let us know what you think by filling in this brief questionnaire.
All the information you provide will be stored securely and only be used for the purpose of this consultation exercise. If you give us your permission we will keep you up to date with developments relating to the service.