Camden’s controversial play cuts to be debated again

�Parents fighting to save play services in Camden have been given another chance to challenge the council’s decision to slash funding by �2.8million.

Liberal Democrat councillors have called in a decision by the Labour-run authority to chop around two-thirds from its play services budget. The money funds after-school and breakfast clubs and holiday schemes for four to 13-year-olds.

The overhaul was waived through despite widespread opposition from families.

They warned that some parents would be forced to give up work because they could not afford to pay large childcare fees charged in the private sector.

Kim Mabbutt is play development officer at the Winchester Project, a Swiss Cottage-based charity providing play activities and support to young people.

She said: “I have worked at The Winch for a wonderful 10 years and these cuts are the biggest threat to our work we have faced.

“I am really overjoyed that we have had the support of certain councillors who have decided to call this in.

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“Children benefit from being around all types of children – why do we want to go back to isolating them? These cuts will have a devastating impact in future years.”

The council plans to replace its current offering with “integrated services” which provision for poor children and those with special educational needs, totalling �1.5m.

Lib Dem children’s boss Cllr Tom Simon said: “If you have a play service which is only for poor kids then you stigmatise it. But there is another danger. If you are unable to use the play service because they aren’t included in these integrated groups then there is a classic squeeze on people on low incomes.”

He added: “This is doubly important here because you are also talking about cheap childcare for many families. Some working mums will have to give up work to look after kids.

“Play services should be designed in such a way so that squeezed low income families aren’t going to find themselves having to give up work.

“There is already not enough incentive to get off unemployment benefit and into jobs.”

The proposed cuts will be debated at a scrutiny meeting on Monday night.

The Ham&High tried to contact Cllr Larraine Revah, the Labour group’s children’s boss, but she was unavailable for comment.