Disabled holidaymakers from Harrow have been left distraught after their invaluable once-a-year vacation was ruined by the collapse of travel firm XL.
Charity CMSS had booked to fly seven people with celebral palsy and associated disabilities, and four volunteers, to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on Monday (15 Sept) for a week-long break.
But when it emerged that same morning the company had folded and their plane tickets no longer existed, everyone involved was "absolutely devastated", the charity's service manager Naheed Judge said.
She told the Observer: "The whole purpose of these holidays is to give carers well-deserved respite.
"For some people, it's the only break they get from looking after their son or daughter, who may have high needs.
"It also gives the clients an opportunity to go on holiday and make friends, try different cultures and have a really good time. It also gives them a break from their carers."
She explained: "We found out the bad news on Monday at 7.30am when our chief executive rang to say XL had gone bust.
"We were absolutely devastated, to be honest, because everything had been put in place.
"One client, Martin, had been waiting three years for this and he's gutted. Another one of the clients works on a Friday as a chambermaid and had been saving for clothes and handbags to go on holiday with."
The charity's 11-strong group were due to stay at Sands Beach Villas, a resort it has used before because of its excellent disability access.
Following XL's collapse, charity workers tried all week to find different flights and alternative accommodation but it proved too expensive as the prices shot up.
"We had to tell the carers: unfortunately we can't afford it," said Mrs Judge, adding that the cancelled break had wider repercussions.
"One of the volunteers who provides 24-hour care on these holidays had taken annual leave from work for a week and another had put childcare in place so she could come.
"We had been waiting so long for the holiday and the families are very upset."
CMSS (Central Middlesex Skilsl Development Centre), which was established in 1952 and has been providing holidays since 1992, has bases in Northwood Hills, Wembley and Hayes from which it arranges college courses, living skills, conductive education programmes and social activities for its daycare clients.