Me Too! scheme may be saved

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A CONTROVERSIAL voucher scheme aimed at giving poorer children access to sporting facilities may be saved despite claims that it has been widely abused.

The “Me Too!” vouchers were intended to enable financially disabled children and young people the opportunity to take part in out of school and holiday group activities and one local councillor has claimed that it would have been better if it was left that way.

Councillor Joe Plant, who sits on the North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) children and young person’s scrutiny committee, said: “The scheme was very successful when it was aimed for the right purpose and that was only to give them to underprivileged children.

“It started to go wrong when the scheme was opened up to all.”

The scheme was suspended in the Whitby area at the end of February when the allocated grant dried up, with concerns that tighter restrictions would have allowed under privileged children to have benefited from the scheme over a longer period.

Funding for the scheme was obtained through the Government’s Disadvantage Subsidy scheme and Extended Services in Schools coordinator Liz Dent said: “They are going to review the spend so far and are looking at starting something else if they are able to do so.

“We’re hopeful something new will start at the end of May.”

Under the scheme vouchers could be applied for by the completion of a referral form which was signed by a professional such a teacher or care home worker.

There were no limitations on who could apply for the scheme and it is thought that this may have led to vouchers being received by people who did not need them, instead of being reserved for poorer children.

Cllr Plant added: “We have got under privileged children in the area and the scheme was going well until it was decided to open the vouchers to everybody.

“I brought concerns to the council because the only losers in all of this are the under privileged children.

“As I have a personal interested in the scheme I would just like to make it clear that I have not influenced or made any decisions on the scheme itself.

“I raised questions on behalf of people who brought the concerns to me.”

Miss Dent added: “Many families have really appreciated the Me Too! vouchers enabling their children to attend activities over the holidays.

“The scheme has given a boost to local community activity providers and our hope is that now the grant is spent the families who have discovered these opportunities will try to find ways to continue attending them,”

The scheme was initially hoped to last until August and was administered by local school headteachers with the assistance of officers from NYCC.