SNAPS offers online support amid coronavirus lockdown
It is a massive understatement to say COVID-19 is having a big impact on community groups across Leeds.
Over the past few weeks many charities and support networks have had to temporarily close their doors to young and old alike because of the coronavirus restrictions.
But they have risen to the challenge by adapting the way they work to make sure they can still reach out remotely to the vulnerable and the socially isolated.
Over the next few weeks the YEP’s Community Focus page will examine how groups are responding to the health crisis.
In this edition we asked one of our regular contributors to describe how their work has been affected.
SNAPS (Special Needs and Parent Support) normally runs physiotherapist-led hydrotherapy and rebound sessions at Penny Field School in Meanwood and Broomfield School in Belle Isle. It usually helps around 80 families per week. Other activities include Sunday football sessions in South Leeds for children with additional needs.
But many of the children the charity works with have underlying health conditions. And there is a very real fear that this virus could make those children very poorly.
So SNAPS recently took the decision to temporarily close its doors to the weekly sessions it runs for families.
Its chief executive Lucy Owen said: “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on SNAPS and the families we support. We have had to close all our services until June at the earliest which is heartbreaking for us and our members.
“The families who attend SNAPS rely on the vital physiotherapy to help their children make crucial physical developments and the weekly support from other families to help them get through the strains that come with having a child with additional needs. We know this time is difficult for everyone, but it is incredibly difficult for our families who were already stretched to their limits before this crisis.”
The repercussions also extend to financial support as SNAPS is completely independently funded. It relies upon donations to keep the doors open, and predicts that the dip in income will probably continue for at least a year as competition for grants, community and corporate fundraising will massively increase.
This financial shortfall will have a long-term impact on the charity. Reserves are being used to get SNAPS through this crisis but plans for opening a third site later this year have been put on hold. This is due to the predicted loss of income and the logistical difficulties of starting a new service with the current restrictions with movement.
But SNAPS is doing all it can to continue to serve the families who rely on it. The charity is getting creative, sharing resources online and helping people from a safe distance.
The charity is looking to create online content for families to get involved in while they are stuck at home. These include craft packs, online videos to engage with their social media audiences, online quizzes, as well as virtual support groups to help the parents through this difficult time.
SNAPS supremo Lucy Owen added: “As ever, our families are showing just how amazing they are by sharing resources and ideas between them online and continuing to support each other at a distance.
“At SNAPS, we can’t wait to be able to open our doors again but until then we will support our families from afar in whatever way we can.”
A mum whose son relies on the vital services SNAPS provides has spoken of the ‘testing time’ her family faces without its day-to-day support.
Lora Bedford’s son, Phoenix, usually attends the charity’s activity sessions. But SNAPS has had to indefinitely cease such work in light of the Government’s advice on social isolation and closing all non-essential services.
Mum Lora said: “SNAPS is an essential part of our week and provides necessary physiotherapy services (hydrotherapy) for Phoenix and social time for us as a family. It’s been a testing time not having this support physically for Phoenix as he is telling us he is in pain but also he’s wondering why he can’t see his friends to do what he normally does every week and is becoming quite upset.
“As a family we are not getting any time to refresh our minds so it’s hard to try and stay in a positive frame of mind even though we are trying hard to.
“We feel much more isolated than when the service is up and running but thank SNAPS so much for everything they are doing to remotely help us through this daunting time.”
SNAPS is currently working on a raft of virtual support measures to help families who are missing their direct services.
It is using online platforms to try and meet their needs, with help ranging from videos to fun quizzes. For more information please see: www.snapsyorkshire.org.