Wales

Concern as children's support service at risk in Newport

Dawn Battersby
Image caption Dawn Battersby says the changes will be unbearable for her family

Charities have raised concerns about Newport Council's decision to pull out of the Gwent Sensory and Communication Service (SenCom).

RNIB Cymru, Wales Council of the Blind, Guide Dogs Cymru and Sight Cymru believe the change could lead to a "postcode lottery" of provision.

SenCom is for children who have vision, hearing and communication problems.

The council said "speculation" the change will disrupt the service is "misinformed".

SenCom is jointly funded by the five South-East Wales councils: Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport, Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

Newport will save £250,000 by creating its own team serving around a hundred children which it says will be equivalent to SenCom.

The charities met with council officials on Thursday after sending a letter last week which said the change could make services "less able to adapt to changes in demand and workforce" and lead to a potential loss of specialists.

Owen Williams from Wales Council of the Blind said: "Some of those concerns remain.

"Our priority is to support the children and families in the Newport area during a time when they have a lot of concerns about the future.

"Until we know the staffing structure, who is going to be working within Newport and the specialty that's in place, it's very difficult to know what the service will look like."

Image caption Dawn Battersby and her grandson Brogan have used the service since he was three months old

A spokeswoman for the local authority said: "The council participates in numerous service partnerships across Gwent and we fully appreciate the benefits of partnership working.

"However, we can provide a service for Newport children that is equivalent to that provided by SenCom in a more cost-effective manner.

"Newport's decision to withdraw from SenCom should not destabilise the regional provision as SenCom will still be appropriately sized, resourced and will remain a viable service.

"The council plans to employ current SenCom staff in its new service."

More on this story