A Lewes-based group which offers support and structured training to adults with a learning disability has told how cuts to funding could see it close.
Zest, which operates from the car park at County Hall, allows adults to learn transferable, work-based skills which are fundamental and important for entering the job market.
However, after East Sussex County Council released a report stating adult social care funding is due to be slashed by £40 million by March 2019, it is likely Zest, along with many other local, valuable services, will close.
Kerry Joyce, Zest director, said: “We used to work for quite a large charity that set up the car valeting project in East Sussex for adults with a learning disability or autism to learn work-based skills.
“After operating for three years and securing future funding for another three years from the council, the charity decided they did not want to run the project anymore and served notice.
“As job coaches for the charity, myself and my colleague, Martin, were devastated and became determined the project would not close.
“Our determination paid off and we were awarded funding from March 1, 2015 in the form of a grant, for 19 months until September 2016, enabling this project to continue.
“After only eight months of trading, we have been suddenly and devastatingly informed by the council our funding will most likely be removed or dramatically cut because of the savings they need to make.
“If this happens it will take effect in April 2016, this will result in our funding being withdrawn six months earlier than our written contract states. We are now in consultation with the council. If we do not do anything now, the likelihood is we will close.
“We are back to where we started. The project being under threat through no fault of our own, just the goal posts have been moved and the rug pulled from underneath us.
“Telling the team we might have to close is probably one of the hardest things we have ever had to do in our life and something we would never want to experience again. This will take away their hope for their future if we close.
“We never wanted to rely on council money indefinitely, our plan has always been to become self-sufficient but of course we needed some time to achieve this. We just need a fighting chance and time to establish ourselves.”
Zest is sharing its story in an attempt to highlight the real impact of council funding cuts, and raise as much awareness of the group as possible in order to gather support and possible outside funding.
Visit www.zest sussex.org.uk for more information.
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