Angry parents plan 'carnival' to protest against charity changes
FAMILIES who use a centre for youngsters with disabilities and life-limiting illnesses in Kingswood have organised a carnival-style march in protest at changes there.
The families using the Hop Skip and Jump centre say their views have been "ignored" by the charity running the specialist centre.
Parents are upset that the charity behind the centre for youngsters with disabilities and life-limiting illnesses has moved its focus away from a drop-in service to respite sessions.
Hundreds of marchers are expected to congregate on May 27 in Avening in Gloucestershire, where the charity running the centre is based.
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They want to march past a church where chair of the charity's trustees, Reverend Celia Carter, works.
Chair of the Hop Skip and Jump Parents Group, Julian Burr, 33, of Hanham, said: "I cannot think of a better way to create awareness. All we want is for our siblings to play together in the same place, safe in the knowledge that their needs are being met.
"It's not too much to ask. We will march from Avening Church to the Hop Skip and Jump Foundation office with bells and whistles to present our petition. We will have carnival style floats, make a lot of noise and our children will march with us."
The charity, which was set up 31 years ago in the Cotswolds, has sister centres in Swindon and the Cotswolds.
The Bristol branch opened nine years ago and is used by more than 800 families.
Other charities and groups have agreed to join the march.
Carly Sewell, mother of Lucas and his brother Zachary, has been using the centre on a weekly basis since receiving the special needs diagnosis for Lucas.
The Kingswood resident said: "Hop Skip and Jump used to be a home from home for us. I loved that stay and play offered an inclusive service by opening its doors on a daily basis to the typically developing siblings of children with additional needs. The sheer genius of the inclusion of siblings meant that our children were not hidden from society but had community presence. Now the atmosphere has completely changed! It feels like the heart has been ripped out of the place."
Bevis and Kirsten Thacker, 56 and 39, parents of Rufus, five, who has autism and younger brother Felix, four, have been using the centre for more than three years.
"We hope that with this final and unique persuasive push of positivity, the trustees will see the march, reverse their recent decisions and continue to run the centre in the way that it was intended for the benefit of all our special children and their families," said Mr Thacker, of Knowle.
For more information, visit www.hsjconsultation.info.