The closure of charity after a funding cut will leave a gap in a vital community support for vulnerable familes with children under five, it is claimed.

Home-Start Epping Forest held its final event yesterday afternoon, a ‘last luncheon’ for the families it helped, at Murray Hall in Borders Lane, Loughton.

The charity will close at the end of August after 24 years of service in the area, after £70,000 yearly grants from Essex County Council (ECC) and the West Essex Clinical Commission Group expired.

ECC said last month that its funding was cut due to its focus on families with children under five, so it does not meet the criteria of the Family Innovation Fund (FIF) Grants Programme, which supports children from ages five to 19.

Home-Start has provided help to 1,100 families with young children and supports parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence and build better lives for their families.

Home-Start Epping Forest's manager, Pat Farrington, said: “It will leave a gap in the local community.

“It is very sad that we are being closed down and it was an emotional event with a balloon release and lunch.

“There are many families we could support and I am not sure where these people will go now for help, there will be a gap in the support structure which is quite worrying.

"There is no other facility in Loughton that offers home visits so a large number of families with young children will not get adequate support and could be at risk."