‘SCARED’ and uncertain – that’s the reaction from parents after it was announced Snap Specialist Playgroup would close at the end of summer.

With sites in Pennar and Haverfordwest, operating at Withybush hospital, Snap is a specialist needs playgroup which has been identified by some as the key link in helping disabled children receive life changing professional treatment.

In a letter released by one of the lead specialists involved in the group, Dr Martin Simmonds wrote: “I am writing with a heavy heart to inform you that Snap, in its current provision, will close at the end of this summer term, 2021.”

Snap will no longer exist after its contract with Pembrokeshire County Council was put out to tender under a new “CCG grant” arrangement instead of the usual Service Level Agreement issued through the Families First and Flying Start projects.

Snap specialists said, “the expectations and staffing ratios (of this new agreement) were not acceptable to the trustees and staff.”

PCC argue that the new agreement was an improvement on the old, saying: “It would have provided greater geographical reach, a more consistent offer across the county, and additional funding to support children and families across Pembrokeshire.”

Parents fear that because of Snap refusing to take up the new proposal, the quality of life for children requiring specialist services will drop dramatically.

Rachelle Blair summed up the situation by saying, “they seem to take away everything from kids that have additional needs.”

Rachelle, whose sister’s three-year-old son attends Snap, said: “My sister has been helped so much and it has become easier for her to cope with her son. She went to Snap when no one else gave her time.”

Rachelle has posted a petition on change.org titled ‘saving Snap playgroup’ which is close to hitting one thousand signatures.

Her sister uses the services at Snap in Penner, one of the sites earmarked to close, and, even though services still run at Withybush, Rachelle says her sister cannot get there regularly.

"It really does scare me that they have gone.”

Snap started in 1993 and helps roughly 60 kids a year, all of which are in the early stages of development where it is often hardest to identify if a child has a life changing disability.

Claire Grey, whose son Jack attended Snap for three years, says without the playgroup’s intervention in identifying some of Jack’s needs she could have been stuck on a waiting list for years.

“When Jack was growing-up, I thought he was day dreaming and not paying attention and that was possibly his autism, but Jack actually had epilepsy and the team at Snap noticed it, recorded it and got healthcare professionals to diagnose it.

“There was a massive waiting list in Pembrokeshire to be diagnosed, but because Jack attended Snap he got diagnosed at three-years-of-age, otherwise he would have been on a waiting list until he was seven or eight.”

Claire is one of the lucky ones who received support, however she worries that in the future parents won't have Snap to support them.

“My biggest thing is, I cannot imagine having a child like mine and that support not being there.

“You cannot just employ someone to look after children with additional needs. You cannot set up a new playgroup without that wealth of experience. These are early years children that have complex learning difficulties. They need the right support. It really does scare me that they have gone.”

"What does the future hold? Nothing"

Paul Davies MS has written to Pembrokeshire County Council highlighting his concerns, saying, “I wish to make it very clear that this provision cannot afford to be lost.”

There are talks of provisions being put in place by September including a “Snap 2.0” mentioned in the letter written by Dr Simmonds.

PCC says it has contacted parents and information about a new provider will be shared in due course. Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong stated: "Families and learners can expect a continuing high-quality service whilst we ensure we are able to support learners across the whole of Pembrokeshire."

These words seem to offer little consolation to families like Rachelles' in the wake of uncertainty in the most difficult of circumstances.

“What does the future hold? Nothing. We simply do not know,” she said.

To sign Rachelle's petition click here.

If you want to contact Pembrokeshire County Council about childcare concerns click here.