The SNAP story

SNAP (Special Needs and Parents) was founded in 1994 when eight families got together to start a parent and toddler group. They were anxious about the lack of provision they experienced as parents of young children with special needs and wanted to do something to help other parents in similar situations.

Being orchestrated from the founder and chairman Hilary Needham's front room and meeting in local halls, the group quickly began to expand. As the original children became too old for the group, SNAP introduced activity sessions for school-age children and began to provide support and advice for the parents, including a telephone helpline, a specialist library and family newsletters.

By the end of 1997 SNAP was supporting 170 families and applied to the National Lottery Charities Board for funding to set up and equip a small office in Keys Hall, a council owned community facility in Warley, Brentwood where the parent and toddler group met.

The bid was successful so Hilary Needham had her front room back at last. Not only that, before long she also became SNAP's first employee when In 1999 Scope, the UK's largest disability charity partially funded the recruitment of a manager to run the services.

queens golden jubilee award 220pxThe charity went from strength to strength, in 2003 winning the Queen's Golden Jubilee award for voluntary service by groups in the community. Now known as the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, this is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK for outstanding work carried out in their local communities.

By this time the services and provision had developed to such an extent that SNAP was outgrowing its base of two small offices at Keys Hall. 
Brentwood Borough Council has always been very supportive of SNAP and suggested a move to the former Duchess of Kent Building, opposite Warley Hospital. 
Although the building was in a state of ill repair, the Council offered the opportunity of refurbishing the building in return for a 25-year peppercorn lease. We set about raising the necessary funds for our project.

Hilary Debbie building site 220pxWith a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, the council providing architectural services free of charge and financing some of the building works, and contributions from Charitable trusts, individuals and organisations, we were able to raise the necessary money and the building works started in September 2006.

In addition to our new centre, the development also included a new-build doctors' surgery and the refurbishment of the Nightingale Centre, which would become a community facility. At last the building was finished and we moved into our beautiful new home. Now all we had to do was to make it official.

On 17th May 2007 HRH The Countess of Wessex arrived by helicopter to visit and officially open the SNAP Centre. The Countess had a tour of the new facilities, including our Multi-sensory room, Children's Activity Hall and specialist IT suite, and then took the time to chat to volunteers, parents and young people who use the Centre. It was a great way to mark the beginning of an exciting new chapter in SNAPs history.

Countess-Wessex-009 710px

Since then the building has enabled the dedicated staff and volunteers at SNAP to offer resources, services and support to hundreds of families in the local area.

Now, more than 2,000 families are currently (March 2017) receiving help from SNAP and over the years 4,000 families have turned to our charity and benefited from our services.

Our founder, Hilary Needham, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours 2012 for services to children and young people with special needs and their families. Everyone at the charity was thrilled that her dedication and achievements at SNAP were recognised in this way.