A NEW support group has been launched for people who care for youngsters with special education needs and disabilities.

Branches will provide support to anyone caring for young people up to the age of 25.

The free monthly session is run by Swindon SEND Families Voice, the forum for parents and carers of disabled children in Swindon, in partnership with Hop, Skip and Jump which provides respite care to young people with disabilities and special educational needs.

“The group is about empowering parents and carers and giving them information,” said Jacqui Watt, who chairs Families Voice.

Clarissa Legg, centre manager of Hop Skip & Jump, said the idea for the group came from parents’ feedback.

“A lot of parents say they get depressed caring for SEND children, as it can be very lonely. So it’s nice for them to come to this, to speak to others who understand what they are going through.”

Sarah Fisher, a mother-of-two from Swindon, said she had come for the support. “These groups are so important for me as my family lives in Devon, so I come here to offload. What is nice about this particular group is it is inclusive of all different needs and abilities.”

The meetings will be held alternately at Upper Shaw Ridge Farm between 10am – 12pm, and also on the 1st Floor, Orbital Shopping park between 7pm – 9pm, to suit working families.

The group will host speakers to provide information about services available to parents and the best way to access them.

Natalie Trant, the SEN Travel Advisor with Swindon Borough Council was speaking yesterday, alongside Helen Hancox, Manager at SENDIASS and Liz Fewings, the High Needs Implementation Manager at Swindon Borough Council.

Mrs Trant said: “The perception at the moment seems to be that travel is about school buses, but there are actually other options available for parents to explore. Hopefully by coming to these groups we can get more advice and info out there for people who need it.”

Saadia Shah, mother-of-two, recently moved to Swindon. “I found there isn’t much here that suits me,” she said.

There are friendship groups arranged, but they often take place in Wetherspoon’s which isn’t appropriate for her.

“Moving to a new area where you don’t know anyone, coupled with having a child with SEN, I would say are two of the most isolating experiences in life.

“Also, in my community there isn’t much understanding of autism. People think I need to discipline my child more or they recommend individuals who can cure my child’s autism, which isn’t what you need.”

Mrs Watt said: “We are really pleased with how the first group went and hope those that came found it helpful.”