How Leeds Charity SNAPS Supports Children with Additional Needs
Leeds-based SNAPS (Special Needs and Parent Support) provides support services for children with additional needs and their families
SNAPS provide weekly physiotherapist-led hydrotherapy and rebound sessions, as well as swimming, arts and crafts, dance, sign and sing, boccia, storytelling and music therapy for children with additional needs. This is on top of their weekly accessible football sessions for children and their siblings, and the support for parents and carers between weekend sessions. Children don’t need a formal diagnosis to access SNAPS’ services, and families can self-refer to the charity or be referred by another organisation. They’re based in Leeds, but offer support to families from further afield too.
‘SNAPS was formed in 2004, originally by a group of parents who had children with additional needs who realised that the services and support they needed just weren’t available,’ Lisa says. ‘It started off very low key, meeting in church halls, and it’s grown and grown over the years. SNAPS has become a registered charity and we now have a board of 12 trustees (three are parents/carers themselves).
‘The need for this type of support in West Yorkshire is still massively outweighing our capacity at the moment – at one point we had 200 children on our waiting list for therapies. So we’re looking at ways to expand our services to help more families.’
Lisa joined the organisation around two years ago and was brought in to look at raising more funds. ‘As an organisation we don’t receive any statutory or government funding and we rely entirely on donations,’ she explains. ‘Historically, we’ve received funds from various trusts and grants but my role is to look at how we can develop and diversify that. Funding is always a challenge, especially given the current economic climate and pressure on individuals. There are two sides to that. There’s a pressure on the individuals concerned, but also the pressure from a fundraising point of view as people are tightening their belts and there are so many wonderful causes fighting for the same pot of money. Covid was really difficult for everyone, and our families in particular felt extremely isolated. We had to close the doors to our physical site but we set up a family support service which has continued to run wellbeing days and activities to give parents and carers the opportunity to take a break from their responsibilities, but also to seek advice and chat to other parents.’
SNAPS are looking forward to their annual Superhero Challenge which returns on 24th September at the John Charles Athletics track. ‘It’s an accessible fun run and a chance for all children to feel like a superhero for the day,’ Lisa says. ‘Anyone can come along, there’s face-painting, inflatables and plenty of fun activities.’ Those involved can walk, run or wheel around the track as they’re cheered on to the finish line and this event is key in helping with SNAPS’ all-important fundraising.
Lisa enjoys meeting families and talking to parents, carers and children and hearing the impact SNAPS has made. ‘I’m thinking of a young girl in particular who had a stroke and she’d essentially lost all movement down the left side of her body,’ Lisa says. ‘Since coming to SNAPS we’ve built up her muscle strength through hydrotherapy and at our last Superhero Challenge event she was whizzing around the racetrack with no aid. Being able to see that progress is amazing. Sometimes it’s huge progress like that, sometimes it’s just the little things. We might have a child that comes to swimming lessons and won’t go in the water but by the end of the term they’re happy splashing around with our swimming teacher. No matter how big or small the progress is, it has such a huge impact on the families.’
SNAPS recently produced their impact report which found that over the past year the charity has been able to support approximately 180 families every month across Leeds and West Yorkshire. ‘We send questionnaires to the families to ask for their feedback and 100 percent of families told us they felt happier and more confident after attending SNAPS,’ Lisa adds. ‘It was really positive, and I’m obviously biased but it’s such a lovely organisation and it feels like a family because it’s so inclusive, and you can see that immediately when you speak to the families involved.’