We would have been lost were it not for The SNAP Centre. It is the only place that we have where we can completely relax and know that our son is safe, happy and content.

Alison - Hornchurch

We feel that we belong and the people care, less isolated and better informed.

Kelly - Brentwood

20 Years of SNAP

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SNAP (Special Needs And Parents) helps Essex families who have children aged 0-25 years with special needs and disabilities. The children and young people have a wide range of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, sensory impairments, speech and language difficulties and learning disabilities. SNAP’s aims are to inform, encourage and support parents, so that they can grow in strength and knowledge and become better equipped to give the best possible help to their children.

Eight families founded SNAP in 1994. They were anxious about the lack of relevant provision and assistance that they had experienced as parents of young children with disabilities. They decided to start a parent and toddler group to help other parents experiencing similar difficulties. The parent and toddler group met each Monday in local halls, which were hired for the sessions.

photo 1aThe parent and toddler group soon began expanding, driven by the families’ need for more help and support. Existing families whose children became too old to attend the parent and toddler group continued to need support and parents of school-aged children with disabilities also turned to SNAP for help. In these early years the charity’s services were co-ordinated from the chairman’s (Hilary Needham) front room.

By the end of 1997 the number of families being supported had risen and it was becoming increasingly difficult for the charity to operate without a proper office base. SNAP set up an office in a council owned community facility in Warley, Brentwood. From this base the charity was able to develop a range of information and advisory services, including a telephone helpline, a specialist library and family newsletters. In addition to the pre-school group, SNAP introduced music therapy and after-school activities such as yoga and trampoline clubs.

premises group visitSNAP's services have grown rapidly over the years because we have responded to the needs of Essex families. This development of our services led to the need for a move to larger and more suitable premises in order that we could continue to provide a lifeline to parents and carers of children with special needs and disabilities.

Brentwood Borough Council offered us our own dedicated area in the former Duchess of Kent building in Pastoral Way, Warley. The building was in a state of ill repair, but the Council offered SNAP the opportunity of refurbishing the building in return for a 25-year peppercorn lease.

SNAP’s major three-year fundraising campaign was extremely successful. Total expenditure on the project was £494,849. Funders included the Big Lottery Fund, various charitable trusts and local supporters. The SNAP Centre was officially opened by HRH The Countess of Wessex on May 17th 2007.

sophie 013The Need for Our Services

SNAP is providing a unique service to Essex families from its centre in Brentwood to support families who have children and young people with special needs and disabilities. The need for our services is self-evident from the growth in the number of families using them.

SNAP has helped over 3,500 families over the years. Over 250 new families turn to SNAP each year for help and support.

The SNAP Centre remains fundamental to our provision for both parents/carers and for children and young people. Over 700 parents and carers together with at least 500 children and young people are regularly attending the centre each year. Parents/Carers benefit from advice, information, training and counselling. Activities for children and young people include the use of our wonderful multi-sensory room and specialist IT Suite for a variety of play sessions and after school clubs. In addition to this SNAP has a telephone service/helpline which deals with over 4,000 calls from families every year. sensory room

Since its very beginnings, parents/carers of children with special needs and disabilities have determined the development of SNAP’s services by telling us what they most need to improve their lives and the lives of their children. All SNAP’s activities are monitored and evaluated thoroughly via user surveys as well as both verbal and written feedback collected from children and families on a regular basis and via our Family Forum.

SNAP works in partnership with Health, Education and Social Care Services in order to enable the best possible outcome for our families. SNAP is a focal point of contact that can provide joined-up advice and information for families.

In celebration of SNAP’s 20th anniversary we have created a visual timeline at The SNAP Centre of how we started and how we’ve grown.  The team looks forward to a bright future continuing to help and support many more Essex families.