“Craigmillar’s Venchie centre wins backing of new MSP Ash Denham” – Edinburgh Evening News

A community centre facing an uncertain future after council cuts has won the backing of one of the Capital’s newest MSPs.

The Venchie centre in Craigmillar runs a breakfast club for 30 children from difficult backgrounds, referred by social workers, teachers or others working with the families.

It also runs after-school clubs, residential trips and holiday play schemes for youngsters in one of the Capital’s most deprived areas.

But the project has been told by the city council it will lose its funding from next year and the centre says it will have to close unless finance can be found from somewhere else.

Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Ash Denham raised the Venchie’s plight in the Scottish Parliament, describing the breakfast club as one of only three of its type across the city.

She said: “The service is run by a committed team, who start off the morning driving around, collecting referred primary school children and bringing them to the centre.

“Once at the centre the children receive a healthy breakfast. In some cases that, together with the free school meal, will be the only meal those children will eat. The kids are then walked to school, ensuring they arrive on time, well fed and ready to learn.

“Without a new funding source, Venchie will have to close its doors to those kids, so I would welcome any help that the cabinet secretary could suggest to support such services for my constituents.”

The Venchie had to apply for funding under the council’s new grants procedure and secured money for the current year, but will get no more after March 2017.

Project manager Susan Heron said they had worked alongside the two other centres which run referred breakfast clubs – Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre and Royston/Wardieburn – in preparing their applications, but Royston/Wardieburn was given three years of funding while the others were both refused.

She said: “We do the same work, meeting the same needs, everything is the same but one got funding and two didn’t. It’s bizarre.”

Ms Heron said the breakfast club funding of £39,440 a year – about £1300 per child – was “a small price to pay”.

City children and families leader Councillor Paul Godzik said bids totalling £6.5 million were made for a funding pot of £3m.

“The process was independently verified by an external organisation, and we are looking at how it can be improved for future years

“I do hope Ash Denham will raise with the cabinet secretary how the year-on-year reductions to council funding and our inability to raise additional revenue is having a knock on effect to vital services right across the city.”

This article originally appeared in The Edinburgh Evening News. 

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