Special Needs Out of School Club (in Beds) was founded in 2001 by three parents of children with special needs, who recognised that there were very few social and recreational opportunities in the local area for their children out of school hours. They surveyed other parents, who also had children and young adults with special needs, to identify what type of services they felt would be required within the community. These parents made contact with the Local Authorities for Bedfordshire and Luton as well as other funding bodies, and finally after a year of hard work ‘Hillcrest Out of School Club’ was born.
After obtaining charitable status as a non-profit-making organisation, the name later changed to S.N.O.O.S.C (in Beds) to avoid confusion as the organisation was based and operated within the ‘Hillcrest Special School’. The organisation works in partnership with Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton Borough Council, and Houghton Regis Town Council. We have recently received a ‘Highly Commended’ award from Houghton Regis Town Council, with two members of the S.N.O.O.S.C staff receiving individual awards for their hard work and dedication.
S.N.O.O.S.C has always and will always put the child/young adult first. We recognise that each is an individual with their own likes and dislikes, capabilities and skills, and their own personalities; our goal is to inspire members with any range of disabilities and behaviours. We aim to support our children/young adults in their social activities with respect and kindness to enable them to successfully access inclusion into the community.
Whilst the club members are the most important individuals within our organisation, we also recognise the needs of their families, parents, and carers. It is important, to all of us working as a team, that we communicate on a regular basis with Parents and Carers, as they know their child/young adult better than anyone else. We send regular feedback forms to parents and carers inviting their ideas and suggestions as we are mindful that this is their club, and as such they should have a choice and a vote.
The organisations ‘Short Breaks’ service is valued and is often difficult to find elsewhere in our local community as many other settings require parents to stay with their member. By enabling parents to leave their child with us for the day and take a ‘short break’ we are hoping to make this service more accessible within the local area.
We operate a Specialised After-School Club Monday/Wednesday/Friday (term time) 3.00pm-5.30pm with transport home provided. Our Specialised Saturday Club operates on alternate Saturdays (term time) 10am-4pm. Holiday Club operates in most School Holidays, including four weeks of the summer break 10am-4pm, though this can run longer if we have trips booked. Included in all of our sessions is a unique 1:1 service, with a 2:1 ratio provided if this is deemed necessary.
In January 2016 the age range increased from 9-21 to 9-25 years of age, which enabled long standing club members to remain longer, and gives us more time to encourage making transitions needed towards adulthood. In April 2018 this was further extended to include 7-25-year olds in order to allow us to start making a difference that much sooner.
We aim to offer as wide a variety of on-base activities as possible, these include an assortment of bikes, trikes and scooters, a ball pond and other sensory equipment. We often do various messy craft activities and sensory circuits. During our specialised after-school club we often take trips out to the local park if the weather is nice. Throughout our specialised holiday clubs, we aim to take trips to theme parks, the zoo, restaurants, bowling, swimming and during the summer, the beach. Within sessions, we endeavour to provide activities that every club member enjoys and can feel confident in doing, we often modify many of the activities we do in order to incorporate everyone.
S.N.O.O.S.C (in beds) introduced two new clubs in 2017. These are the ‘Pearson Club’ for children aged 7-14, named to commemorate a founding member Jane Pearson, and the ‘Kelly Club’ for children and young adults aged 15-25 in honour of another founding member Ann Kelly. The Kelly Club allows us to take our older members out into the community to engage with activities that will facilitate independence and help to prepare them for adulthood.
The organisation is comprised of dedicated Trustees, a strong management team, and a core of specially trained, innovative workers. We employ ‘Buddies’ who are aged 16-21 and they often fill a more ‘friendship’ style role with our members. The Youth Support Workers are aged 21 and upwards, they are the first line of support for our members, provide our ‘intimate care’ service, and are invaluable at mentoring the younger members of the team. Our Team Leaders are dynamic, enthusiastic and compliment all other members of the team.
S.N.O.O.S.C (in Beds) is a happy, lively club that caters to all types of disabilities, including (but not limited to) those with complex and profound needs, learning difficulties and challenging behaviours. Our team prides itself on being practical, caring, flexible to change and adapting to whatever is needed to move forward to ensure that club members enjoy their time within our sessions. Over the years S.N.O.O.S.C has evolved, going from strength to strength with hard work and dedication from all concerned and ongoing support from our Parents and Carers.