Parents’ plea over threatened service

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FAMILIES, health workers and child care professionals are calling for the reprieve of a closure-threatened information service used by thousands of parents across Sheffield.

Sheffield Information Link was used by almost 4,500 families last year, handling nearly 15,000 queries, many from parents of children with special needs.

But the service, which also supports health and child care workers, is facing the axe due to funding cuts.

A survey carried out by SIL quizzed more than 1,000 users and found 98 per cent believed it was very or extremely important they had access to specialised information for children with disabilities.

Similar numbers said it was very important family information services were maintained and protected, while most were very concerned about the impact of cuts on the system.

SIL’s chief executive Sharron Baroudi said the response from families and professionals could not be ignored.

She said: “The response we have had to the survey is a total endorsement of the quality of service we provide for families that are sometimes in desperate need of help, as well as some of the most respected professionals in Sheffield.

“This is a massive vote of confidence in SIL from the people that really matter – those that use and need our services. Anyone taking decisions on the future provision of family information services in Sheffield cannot ignore these demands to keep SIL as it is.”

Charnjit Kaur-Javed, from Handsworth, recently found out that her son has autism and said she would have been totally lost without SIL.

She said: “It was a shock emotionally and mentally when the diagnosis was finally made. I felt at a total loss of what to do. I was provided with help and support.

“I honestly don’t know how I would have managed without their assistance. I strongly believe this service is a vital place for all parents.

“When so many people tell you that their own jobs can not be done without the services we provide and that the impact of closure will be felt hardest by some of our most vulnerable people you have to conclude the service must be saved.

“The result of reducing our services will be to heap a huge added burden on already stretched and under- pressure services needed by young children and families, which in turn will cost even more money.”