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By Nigel Slater Friday 07 December 2012 Updated: 14/12 09:27
STAFF at an Evesham playgroup which cares for young children with learning difficulties have been left heartbroken after it was announced they will close after more than four decades.
Avonvale Special Needs Playgroup will shut next Friday (December 14) marking the end of its 41-year history in the town.
Bosses at the cash-strapped charity, which relies on donations and grants, said dwindling numbers and cutbacks in its financing meant they were left with no option but to shut.
The playgroup, which is based at Evesham Adventure Playground, provided invaluable educational opportunities for children with speech difficulties, physical disabilities and life-limiting illnesses.
The closure comes just over a year after the charity lost one of its most important sources of funding - a £3,000 annual grant from Worcestershire Primary Care Trust - which helped cover running costs.
Mandy Edwards, chairperson of the Avonvale Special Needs Playgroup committee, told the Observer everyone associated with the playgroup was devastated but times were just too difficult to stay open.
"One of the reasons we came to this difficult decision was because we've been struggling for referrals and some days we are running with just one child," she said.
"Unfortunately we have got no other children coming to us as they are going directly to the other Vale schools and we are being bypassed.
"The other reason is because financially we are struggling to keep our head above water. It is getting more and more difficult for us and the staff have been getting disillusioned.
"The whole thing is completely upsetting because I'm very friendly with the staff and my daughter went and absolutely loved it there so she's very upset too.
"It's such a sad loss because I think many youngsters will benefit by coming to us but sadly they don't seem to be coming. This is a decision we did not want to make."
A statement was also sent out to all parents and supporters of the charity thanking them for their hard work over the years.
"The committee would like to thank the staff who have worked so hard to make the school a success, particularly in the last few years where we have suffered falling rolls and insufficient financial support," it said.
"Without these dedicated staff there would not have been a school and many children would not have benefited from the care, education and support provided to give them the best start in life."
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