Help on the way

A HELP group for youngsters with learning difficulties set up by parents and carers today vowed to help other families who feel left out in the cold.Last month, headteachers from the three Ipswich special schools which cater for youngsters until their late teens lifted the lid on the lack of opportunities for their students once they leave education.

A HELP group for youngsters with learning difficulties set up by parents and carers today vowed to help other families who feel left out in the cold.

Last month, headteachers from the three Ipswich special schools which cater for youngsters until their late teens lifted the lid on the lack of opportunities for their students once they leave education.

Today, leaders of the PASTEL education and training social enterprise, based in Stratford St Andrew, offered to help out in the wake of the schools' concerns.

Don Tricker chief executive of PASTEL, said not only would it open its doors to new families, but it was also willing to share its expertise and research with other parents wanting to set up their own groups.

PASTEL was started in 2005 by parents and carers in the Saxmundham area who felt isolated from facilities because of their rural setting.

The group, run by volunteers, now has funding to provide fortnightly workshops for the next three years, and said it can help others do the same.

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Mr Tricker, who has an 18-year-old son Dominic with Downs Syndrome, said: “I agree with the schools in that children with learning difficulties are on a conveyor belt and, while they learn some excellent life skills in their education, the statutory world loses interest with them after school and they fall off the conveyor belt, transferring all the responsibility back to families.

“Out here in rural east Suffolk these youngsters suffer a triple-whammy - they are not only disadvantaged by personal impairments and the attitudes of others, but also their general environment.

“As a parent/carer, with the help of some others, we found the only solution was to form a social enterprise, bid for funds and get on with it ourselves.

“Now we are in a position where we can provide a working model to be replicated elsewhere, by other parent and carers.

“Anyone who wants to set up an enterprise like this can talk to us and we will help them.

“There's no point just sitting back and complaining when services are being cut. This way we are doing something about it.”

Pastel runs fortnightly five-hour workshops for 11 to 25 year olds with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

Workshops use performing arts and other fun activities, delivered by professional tutors at the Riverside Centre at Stratford St Andrew.

See www.pastel.org.uk or call 01728 604944 for details.

N Do you have a child with learning difficulties? What do you think of the help available? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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