Community thankful for charity SNAP's endless support for families with special needs children
PUBLISHED: 13:00 04 February 2019
It all started around a kitchen table where eight mums of special needs children chatted over a cup of tea.
That afternoon in 1994, which was spent sharing struggles, breakthrough moments and future worries, led to support group SNAP (Special Needs and Parents) being set up and soon evolved into a weekly parent and toddler group at Keys Hall, Warley, with a box of information, books and a few sensory toys.
Fast forward to today and SNAP, in Pastoral Way, Warley, is an official charity that has supported more than 5,000 families since that all important tea round.
Karen Boath, director of family services, said: “Our aim is to inform, encourage and support families with children and young people who have any special need or disability.
“We are currently supporting more than 2,500 families and demand for our services continues to grow. In the first month of 2019 we welcomed 53 new families.
“We know this work is essential for parents from our many years’ experience. Recently demand has risen as we have seen pressures on frontline services grow.”
For those aged 0-25 with special needs, SNAP is at hand with playgroup sessions, yoga, drama club, library, music therapy and much more which are available every week at the centre.
As well as these, there is also the unique multi-sensory room, equipped with specialist interactive equipment using a mixture of lights, sounds, vibrations and tactile sensations to encourage children and young people to have fun exploring their surroundings.
Money for the multi-sensory room was raised by The Brentwood a Becket Rotary Club in 2015.
But as the name of the charity indicates, it is not only the children that benefit from SNAP.
From coffee mornings, parent yoga, various training workshops and counselling sessions for parents, to the IT suite which siblings can use and the SIBS4FUN summer scheme, designed for children age six-13 who have brothers and sisters with special needs, there really is something for all the family.
“Provisions and support are either short-lived, limited to a single aspect or condition and don’t usually include the whole family,” said Karen.
“This can leave families feeling frustrated, confused or lost in the process of trying to help their children and other family members.
“SNAP addresses these problems by offering a bespoke service tailored to each family’s needs.
“Our approach in dealing with the whole family unit means we are a reliable constant in their lives and our experienced team of family support advisers offers an engaging, needs-led, comprehensive service that sets us apart.”
SNAP was given a Big Lottery Grant in 2004 to enable the charity to move to a new home and three years later, the building was officially opened by the Countess of Wessex on May 17 and from then on, could continue to expand its services.
One of its founding members and honorary life president Hilary Needham was even awarded MBE for all of her hard work.
This year also marks the charity’s 25th anniversary which the team - made up of 18 members of staff and 130 volunteers - will be celebrating by having a ball at Stockbrook Manor, Billericay on Friday, March 15, and an open day on Wednesday, May 22.
But despite having support from the community, the charity needs more help than ever as it takes around £600,000 to run its services every year and is currently helping more than 2,500 families in Essex get the help, support and advice they need.
Christina Stubbs, director of finance and fundraising said: “Our reputation is first-class amongst our peers and in the local community where we appreciate the widespread support from local businesses, schools and individuals and the 140 volunteers that engage in our services and fundraising activities.
“SNAP is more relevant than it has ever been and we hope everyone will come together to demonstrate their support for our charity as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary.
“Each year we need to raise more than half a million pounds and that help is vital to ensure we can continue our work for the next 25 years and beyond.”
For more information, visit snapcharity.org