LEAD raiders targeted a cash-strapped play group’s roof forcing it to temporarily close.

Stepping Stones Play and Learn, which includes children with additional needs, was left with a partially flooded premises meaning electrical sensory equipment can’t be used.

The theft has also left the Colchester play group’s carpets and walls in need of replacing because of water damage following heavy rainfall.

Group founder Carol Nice said insurers believe the quantity of lead taken would have required a truck to take it away.

She added: “I think it is really sad.

“We have all these signs around clearly saying this is a nursery and respite for children with special needs and it is totally ignored.

“We are all feeling really annoyed and cross.

“We are not in the best situation and it is just another thing we have to deal with.

“We are a source of support for our families, it is another thing for our families to deal with.”

Just last week the play group, based at the Wilson Marriage Centre in Barrack Street, warned it is facing a crisis and may have to close its doors for good unless it urgently receives donations.

Stepping Stones Play and Learn has been offering respite for families through parent groups, play groups, nursery care and an after school club for nearly three decades.

The break-in was discovered by staff around 8.45am on Monday when they arrived for work.

Carol added: “When the girls arrived there was a bit of water and it was soon made clear the lead had been taken from the roof.

“All the water was running down.

“Unfortunately, we have a soft play and sensory room with a lot of equipment and quite a lot of water had gone down the walls.”

The nursery was forced to close Monday and yesterday while an electrician conducted safety checks.

It was due to re-open today but the sensory room, with sensory lighting, remains closed.

Sensory equipment is still drying out before the charity knows how much may need to be replaced.

The value of the lead taken is unknown but the venue is leased from Essex County Council.

  • HELP is being urgently sought by Stepping Stones Play and Learn group so it can replace the water damaged carpets and redecorate walls in its sensory room as soon as possible.

The group was due to re-open the main nursery area today as the floor is covered with lino and the water could be mopped up.
But the sensory room is carpeted and heavy rainfall resulted in more severe water damage. 

Soaked sensory equipment may also need replacing which will come at a cost.

Play group founder Carol Nice called upon handymen and donors to come to their rescue.
“In our sensory room we have got to have new carpets because they are soaked and have to do some decorating with paint - so anything like that.
“And with the fundraising too. It is the smallest things that add together that keep us going, that help us.”
If you can help, call 01206 860467.