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Cuts could spell end of Norfolk charity

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:13 02 July 2010

The boss of a Norfolk charity which cares for people with autism has made a heartfelt plea for funding to prevent the closure of a specialist service for children.

The boss of a Norfolk charity which cares for people with autism has made a heartfelt plea for funding to prevent the closure of a specialist service for children.

A shake up in health and social services could mean a dedicated group, part of Asperger East Anglia (AEA) which supports at least 50 families in the county, could be disbanded if money is not found to keep it going.

There are a number of services offered by the Norwich-based charity but the one under threat - the children and family social group - provides children's activity groups as well as respite services for distressed parents.

Thecla Fellas , head of children's and young people's service for the charity, said: “We really want to keep this service open.

“For two hours every fortnight it offers a much needed break for families because it is often a constant worry for parents of a child who has Asperger syndrome.

“It is very important they get this respite care and there are a lot of people very worried about this closing. We are doing what we can to keep it open but really need some help with funding.”

As reported earlier this year 14 jobs will be lost at Asperger East Anglia in the shake up. Norfolk County Council has cut funding to groups caring for some of the county's most vulnerable youngsters from £2.4m to £1m as part of a budget package aimed at closing a possible £115m black hole in the next three years.

The cuts mean AEA will lose £40,000 a year which it uses to provide the children's activity groups that meet at various places over the county.

One of the many people who benefit from AEA's service is 11-year-old Ryan Beales and his family.

Ryan was diagnosed with autism - part of the Asperger syndrome - several years ago and, along with mum Donna, dad Mark and his seven-year-old sister Zoe, attends a fortnightly session in Gorleston.

Mrs Beales, 36, from Sorrel Road, Bradwell, said they were all “devastated” when they found out the service may end.

“I was shocked and gutted,” she said.

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