Stoke-on-Trent Comet stores refuse to honour charity gift for cerebral palsy girl
STAFF at collapsed electricals giant Comet refused to let a mother spend a charity grant on a TV for her disabled daughter.
Bernadette Pritchard was given a gift card by charity Family Fund after telling them about two-year-old daughter Aimee-Leigh Groves, who has cerebral palsy.
She planned to buy a combined TV and DVD player for Aimee-Leigh in time for Christmas, to allow her to watch educational programmes.
But following Comet's collapse, staff at two Stoke-on-Trent branches refused to let her spend the £150 gift card, despite administrator Deloitte agreeing to honour grants awarded by Family Fund.
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Mother-of-five Bernadette, aged 43, said: "I applied to Family Fund for a grant to buy a TV for Aimee-Leigh and they sent me a £150 card for Comet about three weeks ago.
"I went into Comet at Trent Vale to buy the TV and they told me they weren't accepting the cards from Family Fund any more.
"I rang the charity who said I could still spend it, and I checked Comet's website, which said the administrators were still allowing stores to take them.
"I went back to the store and this time was told I could spend it but I had to pay an extra £70 for five-year insurance. I rang Family Fund again and they said that wasn't true."
Bernadette then went to the Comet store at Festival Park, where she said staff were rude and aggressive.
"They told me they weren't accepting the cards," she said. "The man I spoke to was abusive and made me feel so small. Everyone was looking at me.
"I told him the company had already had the money from a charity and he said they weren't bothered because they were losing their jobs anyway."
Aimee-Leigh has difficulties walking, sitting up or talking properly. She regularly has fits and has a limited immune system.
Bernadette, of London Road, Newcastle, said: "It's really upset me. Aimee-Leigh has been so poorly. She had a lumbar puncture two weeks ago and we are waiting on test results to see if she is suffering from a rare condition.
"She spends most of her time sleeping and watching TV is her one pleasure in life. I'm disgusted that Comet has had money from this charity and treated people like this."
Family Fund provides grants for low-income families with a disabled child to enable them to buy electrical goods, clothing and other items. The charity awarded £33.4 million to 59,166 families in the UK last year.
A charity spokesman said other families had the same experience with Comet, and the charity was working to ensure they would not lose their grants.
"This has been a very confusing time for the families affected," she said. "We are working with Comet and the administrators on a report to detail families that have not been able to spend their gift cards. As soon as we get that we are planning to reissue the funding for alternative retailers."
A statement from Deloitte on Comet's website said Family Fund gift cards were being accepted at the retailer from November 6.
This was updated on December 3 to say the cards could no longer be spent in store.