SNAP specialist group carries on during Covid-19 crisis

AN organisation supporting families and children with additional needs is continuing its work despite Pembrokeshire County Council pulling its funding.

SNAP Specialist Playgroup, a charity that receives core funding from the local authority through Flying Start, Families First and education budgets, has been running successfully for 27 years.

It has bases at the Flying Start Centre in Pennar and at Withybush Hospital with the usual service affected by government guidelines on social distancing.

Earlier this month a decision was published by the director of children and schools Steven Richards-Downes, in consultation with the cabinet member for education Cllr Guy Woodham, to “temporality close” the service.

Pembrokeshire County Council said that all funding for 2019-20 was received by SNAP totalling £115,000 – £74,993 from Flying Start, £29,620 from Families First and £10,500 from education.

The new financial year recommission of the service has been put on hold.

“It remains our intention to resume our commissioned arrangement with SNAP when it is safe to reopen settings,” added spokesman.

SNAP leader Cindy Jenkins said that a proposal to continue the service using online provision and alternative forms of contact for the current 25 families received support, with an estimated cost of £35,000 to September, was not commissioned.

The published decision states it is “not needed.”

However, the dedicated and passionate staff did not want to be furloughed and have continued to work from home, using the charitable funding, with families expressing their gratitude for their support.

Comments on their Facebook page include “brilliant”, “this is fab, thank you”, “no more frown, just hysterical laughter”, “a lot of people smiling in a good way today, well done”, and “thank you for all you’ve done and all you’re still doing, especially at this difficult time.”

Parents also told staff how excited their children were to see staff and how much the engaged with them online.

Cindy added: “It is also very important to continue with therapeutic play and ideas offered to the families at home. Each staff member has now been dedicating their tw and a half hour session to the child that they would have been supporting using Skype (face to face interaction with the child and sharing of ideas and resources with parents), telephone calls, email, messaging and the use of the SNAP playgroup Facebook page.

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“Staff are aware that this is a very difficult time for the families involved and are often a lifeline in providing ongoing therapeutic play and ideas for families.

“Our Staff are a dedicated team and have agreed that the support will continue on a day to day basis (Monday – Friday) during their existing working hours until we get through this, whether this runs into Easter and Summer Holidays.”

There has also been input from the inclusion team, speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and Flying Start, which will continue added Cindy, to ensure that when the service returns it has “provided continuity of strategies, individual play plans, support and advice and themes throughout our structure and routine with the adaptations to the home environment instead of ours.”

The team understands the pressure the council is under, she added, and that decisions are not taken lightly and SNAP have been assured that ceasing funding is temporary.

“They acknowledge the ongoing support we continue to be offering to our families and with this in mind, have provided SNAP with a financial contribution to our invaluable service and we will look forward to continuing our long standing partnership that we have with PCC,” added Cindy.

A spokesman for the council said: “The Council Commissions SNAP on an annual basis to provide childcare for children with disabilities for two to three-year-olds from Flying Start areas and 18 months to four years for children outside of these postcodes.

“Children are referred usually by health visitors or if experiencing difficulties in mainstream nursery settings.

“SNAP informed the Council that they would not be able to offer childcare from the hospital as the resource was being used as part of Covid-19 preparations.

“The Committee proposed to offer alternative childcare support through online and phone contacts. This was not a service that was a priority for the Council but it has continued financial contributions to support this service all be it at a reduced level.

“The decision to furlough is a temporary arrangement as the provider is not able to facilitate direct work with children and demand from parents had also ceased as they followed Government advice to stay home.”

The council is supporting nine childcare settings which remain open for vulnerable pupils up to age four so they have access to childcare if required, he added, and close relationships with third party providers will be maintained.

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