Independent information and advice services for residents of Pembrokeshire have been under threat for the last few years following changes within the Special Educational Needs Department. From the end of July parents who have concerns about their child’s special educational needs or disabilities will no longer be able to access front line services from SNAP Cymru.

Denise Inger Chief Executive Director for SNAP Cymru said ‘We are very disappointed with PCC’s decision to terminate a much valued service with proven expertise and quality standards. Nichola Jones Head of Inclusion has decided to make changes and offer support to parents and young people ‘in house’. We are naturally concerned and disappointed with this decision. It has been our pleasure and privilege to successfully work with the children and families in Pembrokeshire for many years. We know that our service has been valued by families and professionals.

We are concerned and see this as a retrograde step removing at a stroke the opportunity for parents and young people to actively challenge planning and decisions made which directly affect them. In the past parents have reported that local authority staff have provided incorrect information of the status of their entitlements and the range of provisions to explore in order that they can make informed decisions. It is of particular concern that PCC have taken this decision at a time when a whole raft of legislative changes are emerging. We know that families will be disappointed because earlier this year Nichola Jones, Head of Inclusion, stated publicly, when challenged by parents, that SNAP Cymru services were not about to be cut.

Local Authorities across Wales use third sector providers to deliver independent services. SNAP Cymru have developed services for parents, carers and young people, gaining expertise within the education and disability field for over thirty years. When families are worried or things go wrong we work with families and professionals to seek solutions with professionals to meet children’s needs at the earliest possible time.

In 2014 there were 344 pupils in receipt of a statement out of over 5,000 children with special educational needs in Pembrokeshire. Last year SNAP Cymru supported 243 families in Pembrokeshire with over 500 concerns, 200 of these related to Statementing and statutory assessment process.

Parents can still access the SNAP Cymru Helpline and our bilingual website to gain accurate, neutral advice about special educational needs or disability but until we can secure alternative funding we cannot provide a local Independent Parental Supporter service. This is just one of the legal entitlements which are seemingly absent from Pembrokeshire County Council’s immediate plans.

There has been little clarity of how PCC will meet their statutory obligations from August 1st for parents and young people in relation to SEN and Disability.  We are waiting for further information from PCC to inform families.