Agenda item


The Committee was reminded that a report had previously been presented to the November 2023 meeting of the People and Communities Committee which had provided an overview of 2023 leisure centre holiday recreation schemes as delivered by GLL.


            During discussion of that report, a Member had highlighted that children with special needs were often not able to avail of these schemes due to their high support needs and it was subsequently agreed that a report would be submitted to a future meeting which would consider the inclusion of children with special needs in the holiday scheme programme.


            The Strategic Director then provided an overview of the current provision.  He reported that, through engagement with Family Support Hubs and meetings with partners, including the Education Authority (EA), officers were aware that there was a growing number of young people presenting with additional needs and that there was a lack of provision to support their participation in activities. Youth workers and community organisations reported that they were struggling with these issues and the associated impacts on their insurance, health and safety, risks and staff not being adequately trained in working with these young people. 


            He advised that the EA provided funding for voluntary summer scheme provision with around 450 applications from primary, post-primary, special schools and EOTAS settings.  In addition, a number of organisations including Kids Together, Sólás, the Cedar Foundation, Mencap NI, NI Autism Centre, Autonomy and the NOW Group also delivered summer schemes for children and young people with additional needs. Mitchell House, Fleming Fulton and Harberton special schools also provided summer schemes.


            The Director continued that, in order to contribute to addressing this gap in provision, it was proposed that a request be submitted to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee seeking funding for specialist providers to facilitate four additional summer schemes for children with additional needs, one in each area of the City, at a total cost of £80,000 (maximum £20,000 per scheme), which would allow increased numbers of children to participate in summer schemes that were suitable for their needs.


            He advised that, if funding was agreed, Council officers could then undertake initial engagement with the relevant organisations to scope the potential to procure provision of four additional summer schemes for children with additional needs in summer 2024.


            There was unanimous support from this proposal from across the political parties.  A Member highlighted that the report made the point that additional places might be offered with parent/carer support. She stated that, whilst some parents/carers might welcome this and be available to go along, she was conscious that this was a group of people who already provided intensive support and care to their children and who were also in need of a break and she stated that she felt that the Council should, where possible, be striving to offer an inclusive service, not a different one.


            The Member also sought clarity on several other issues pertaining to the proposed pilot and the Director undertook to have an officer contact her directly to discuss the proposal in more detail.


            The Committee:


·        noted the report and agreed that a request be made to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee for additional funding to procure specialist providers to facilitate four additional summer schemes for children with additional needs, with a view to delivering the additional schemes in summer 2024, one in each area of the City, with discussion to take place with the relevant Area Working Groups and the Belfast City Youth Council in advance of any locations being agreed; and


·        agreed to submit an update report to a future meeting detailing the sensory play areas available throughout the City, along with the locations of these. 


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