Dismay over cut in vouchers help

Cllr Brian Simpson, left, with parents and children who are angry about the withdrawall of activity vouchers. 111378.
Cllr Brian Simpson, left, with parents and children who are angry about the withdrawall of activity vouchers. 111378.

CHILDREN and parents in Eastfield have been left angry and disappointed after the withdrawal of a popular activity voucher scheme.

The “Me Too” vouchers have been provided by North Yorkshire County Council for the last two years and have helped lower income families to take part in activities such as swimming and horse riding.

But the scheme has been halted suddenly in Eastfield - even though it is still running in other parts of Scarborough.

Parents are angry that vouchers they were expecting to be able to use over the Easter holidays are no longer valid, despite the expiry date being April 30.

Mum of three Jodie Smith, 34, of Holme Hill, said: “I just don’t think it’s fair. People have booked their kids in for activities over Easter and now they can’t go.

“It’s just appalling. If you had a voucher for a supermarket with an expiry date of April 30 they would have to honour it.

“The scheme has been marvellous and we knew it would come to an end at some point, but to be given two days’ notice is horrific.”

Samatha Orrah, 31, of Northwold Road, who also has three children, said: “I was shocked and annoyed that they just stopped them there and then.

“It’s just not on. Why is Scarborough still allowed them and Eastfield isn’t?”

Eastfield ward councillor Brian Simpson said he was “fuming” about what had happened and said he would fight to have the vouchers reinstated.

He said: “I cannot understand why the county council seems to be discriminating against certain areas.

“To pick Eastfield, which has some of the most low income families, seems very unfair.

“I’m almost lost for words.”

He added that he believes the scheme is “flawed from start to finish” as if children live in Eastfield but go to a Scarborough school the vouchers are still valid.

Cllr Simpson said: “I want to get a full review into the scheme and how it was administered to see what went wrong.”

A spokesman from North Yorkshire County Council said: “Me Too funding was provided through the previous Government’s Disadvantage Subsidy scheme to enable children and young people who are financially disadvantaged to take part in out of school and holiday group activities.

“The scheme, which is administered through schools, has proved immensely popular and children and families have enthusiastically used their vouchers so that most of the Government grant, which was hoped to last until August, is now spent.

“Schools have worked together through local cluster arrangements. Because the scheme has been operating slightly differently in Eastfield to the rest of Scarborough and Filey, different arrangements have had to be put in place from now on to avoid Eastfield schools overspending against the grant.

“As a result all registered activity providers and Eastfield school parents have now been informed that Eastfield school vouchers cannot be used after Thursday March 31.

“Children attending schools in Filey and the rest of Scarborough will be able to use their vouchers until the end of April. However, providers have now been given strict limits on how much they can claim for their share of the vouchers and other restrictions have had to be put in place which parents are being informed about.”

Liz Dent, one of the Extended Services in Schools coordinators, added that many children had benefited from activities such as golf, cooking and dance and that many families had praised the scheme.

She said: “The scheme has given a boost to local community activity providers and our hope is that now the grant is spent the families who have discovered these opportunities will try to find ways to continue attending them.

“I know many providers are looking at how they might be able to help with this.”