A remarkable charity which is facing an uncertain and worrying future must receive help from the Welsh Government, Natasha Asghar MS said.
Sparkle, which provides support to nearly 1,000 children and young people with disabilities and developmental difficulties across Gwent, has seen a drastic drop in funding with its costs now outweighing its income.
As a result, the charity – which needs £750,0000 every year to maintain its support and leisure facilities - is facing tough decisions with it reviewing its essential services.
Natasha, a big supporter of the vital charity, has called on the Welsh Government to see what support – financial or otherwise – it can give in a bid to help Sparkle.
The South East Wales politician told the Welsh Parliament this week:
“The charity is having to review the services it provides – which includes leisure facilities so disabled children can have the same opportunities as able-bodied children. This is a result of significant and ongoing funding issues.
“Sparkle needs to raise around £750,000 every year to maintain its support and leisure services, but a drop in fundraising activities, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, now means the charity’s costs are greater than its income.
“A review of all expenditure has already taken place and cost saving measure such as a recruitment freeze and a stop to non-mandatory training have been introduced, but that still it not enough.”
Natasha added: “I cannot stress enough the importance of Sparkle, and having visited on a number of occasions you can see instantly how much it means to the children and their families just by the smiles on their faces.
“Sparkle offers families, and especially children, opportunities that they cannot get elsewhere, and it would be a travesty to see services lost.”
Natasha asked the Welsh Government’s Business Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS, to bring forward a Ministerial Statement, adding: “A consultation is underway to see how the charity can increase its income through fundraising, grant applications and corporate donations, but Minister is there any support – financial or otherwise – that the Welsh Government can provide?”
In response, the Minister said she didn’t doubt the importance of Sparkle but stressed that the Welsh Government’s financial situation was poor.
Lesley Griffiths MS said: “We all have charities and third sector organisations within our constituencies who provide those much-needed services. But unfortunately, we go back to the budget position.
“The Minister for Social Justice, whose portfolio this sits within, has seen, obviously, her budget reduced, just like every other Minister in the Welsh Government, in order to put that additional funding for public services.
“So, I'm afraid, I don't know the answer to your question. I would urge you to write to the Minister for Social Justice, but there would be a health warning on it that, clearly, with the current budget situation, it is very, very hard to understand where she would be able to access that funding.”
Commenting outside the chamber, Natasha Asghar MS said:
“It is imperative that the Welsh Government rallies behind Sparkle and provides any support they can to avoid potential cuts to services.
“Sparkle provides fantastic opportunities, and essential services, to children and young people at various venues across my region, and also provide a lifeline to parents and guardians.
“As a big supporter of Sparkle, I will be doing all I can to make sure this charity continues as is and it would be utterly devastating to lose it.”
For more information visit www.sparkleappeal.org