Cash blow but gain for criminals

FURIOUS supporters of a charity for mentally-disabled children are reeling today after funding was re-directed – to young offenders.Angry mother-of-two, Amanda Dibenga, spoke to the Evening Star today after it was confirmed that the Orwell Genesis Mencap project, held on Saturday mornings in Ipswich, was to be closed after its bid for £100,000 was refused by the Children's Fund.

FURIOUS supporters of a charity for mentally-disabled children are reeling today after funding was re-directed – to young offenders.

Angry mother-of-two, Amanda Dibenga, spoke to the Evening Star today after it was confirmed that the Orwell Genesis Mencap project, held on Saturday mornings in Ipswich, was to be closed after its bid for £100,000 was refused by the Children's Fund.

"We received a letter from the Children's Fund which said they could not help us this year. It said that the government had set the Children's Fund some tight targets around the youth offending services with an expectation that 25 per cent of their projects meet criteria laid down by the Children's and Young People's Unit and the Youth Justice Board.

But Mrs Dibenga said the message being taken from such action, was that crime pays.

"If I am interpreting this correctly it means that children with disabilities are being bypassed, so that funds can be given to youths who offend against society," said Mrs Dibenga, who children, Luke, 12 and Ruth, 11 are both autistic.

Chairman of the Genesis Mencap Project said he was 'gutted' when he heard the news.

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He said: "It is very frustrating to see the funding going to young people who have committed crimes against society. Our children came into the world as they are. They have done nothing wrong and yet they cannot have the money. "Genesis was my dream and the added blow is that we had been voted one of the top three children's projects in the county," he said angrily.

The fortnightly meetings provided much-needed respite for parents caring for disabled children and was a place parents could leave their children in the knowledge they would be safe and well cared for.

There were art and craft sessions, a hydrotherapy pool, a sensory room and many other activities for the children which gave parents some time for themselves and other siblings.

Mrs Dibenga continued: "This means that a vital service for me and my children has been lost.

"I am just furious that there is no funding. My son Luke absolutely loves going and my daughter Ruth was to start soon, she is going to miss out on so much and Luke will miss it terribly.

"Mencap have tried to get more funding but it is just not available.

"There are very few places like this to take the children and it means such a lot to them. It was a chance for them to spend time with their peers. These children deserve more from society," she said.

A Suffolk County Council spokesperson said: "The Genesis project was initially awarded money from a Government grant which was aimed as start-up money. The grant was intended for a limited time allowing the project to get money from other sources.

"We have been working hard in partnership with Genesis to secure extra funding. Recently this has involved a joint bid for money from the Children's Fund.

"We will continue to work with the group to explore other possible sources of money in order to re-start the scheme."

A spokeswoman from the Children's Fund said: "It is very regrettable that we had to turn down the Genesis' project bid for Children's Fund money.

"We have limited funds for which we have received many applications. We are currently supporting 37 projects to deliver preventative services to children and young people aged 5-13 throughout Suffolk.

"Although next years funding has been allocated we will of course consider new projects once further funding becomes available."

Weblink:

www.suffolk.ac.uk/mvsuffolk/projects/projects

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What do you think of the amount of cash spent on young offenders?

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or email EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Factfile

The Children's fund is targeted at five to 13-year-olds and is a key part of the Government's initiative to tackle disadvantaged and inequalities deriving from child poverty and social exclusion.

It is the largest programme being delivered by the Children and Young People's Unit.

It supports services to identify children and young people who are showing early signs of difficulty.

Provides children and young people with the support they need to realise their potential and overcome their disadvantage.

Secures long-term improvement in children's lives by building capacity in the local community.

The fund is locally determined and flexible and funding is distributed through local partnerships.

It is up to these partnerships to decide in consultation with community groups which projects to fund.

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