'It changes young lives': Disabled children urge council to keep funding their Sleepover club

Disabled children - and their parents - at Saxon Hill Academy in Lichfield are appealing to Staffordshire County Council to keep funding their Sleepover Club.

More than 40 children spend one night a week at the club after school - a chance for them to learn practical skills, have a bit of independence from their parents and enjoy a playdate and sleepover with their friends, something they wouldn't usually get the chance to do, due to their complex medical needs.

Charlie Essex and Izzy Johnson-Davy have been regulars at sleepover club since they were six and have become firm friends.

Charlie said: "It's a time that other people, when they can't sleep over at their friend's house, they get to see their friends.

"I would be really annoyed if it closed because this is the only time that I get to spend with my mate."

His good friend Izzy Johnson-Davey agreed saying:"I would just keep it open as it changes so many young lives for the good."

"As soon as we met in sleepover and played with each other we just clicked. You know when you're missing a piece of a jigsaw, it's like that."

Archie Birch says Sleepover Club has helped him learn new skills like cooking Credit: ITV Central

Archie Birch said the club helped him learn new skills like cooking adding:

"I get to stay overnight with my friends and not just in school. The beds are the comfiest."

The staff who are all medically trained to look after children with complex needs make a lot of effort to provide a homely atmosphere and make sure the bedrooms all include personal touches like a favourite duvet.

But many of the children's parents are finding it difficult to relax at the moment knowing the place they put such value on could be under threat.

Heather Lewis whose son Daniel attends said: "I think Daniel would be really upset if it closed.

Daniel's mum Heather says Daniel would be upset if Sleepover Club closed as he loves it so much Credit: ITV Central

"He loves coming and it's part of his routine now. I think all the kids would be devastated if it was taken away.

"The staff are excellent and we feel comfortable leaving him with them. They've helped with his bedtime routine, socialisation, his independence, his feeding.

"It's a bit of respite for parents too. Often children with special needs don't sleep well. Daniel can get up three or four times a night sometimes and it's nice that you can have that one night where you can catch up."

Daniel's step-dad Jeff Barrett agreed.

"The things they do here normal kids do every night but they can't do that when they've got to be loaded up into a specialist vehicle so this is one night a week when they get to be normal."

Another parent Paul Mullington said:"To me the people making these decisions do not have disabled children and they are not carers. To me it's a financial aspect."

Paige Humphreys who used to attend sleepover club when she was a child came along when we were filming to add her support saying:"Sleepover club helped me to be more independent and more confident.

"I'd like the little ones to have the same opportunities."

Staffordshire County Council spend £1.8M on the provision which runs at five of the county's schools.

Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Education and SEND, said: “The provision of educational residential provision at five of Staffordshire’s 23 special schools is a non-statutory service and is used by around three per cent of the children in Staffordshire with an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP).

“The current contract provision runs until July 2023 and no decisions have been taken yet about its future. This whole review will help us determine what options are available to us.

“We have already been speaking to parents, carers and schools about this— a survey seeking their views closed last week, and we will shortly be analysing the results.

"We will continue to work with schools and the children and families accessing this provision to ensure that the impact of any decision is fully considered.

"We will continue to keep everyone updated on what’s happening.”