Hop, Skip and Jump announced yesterday that it would not be reopening. The charity, based at Upper Shaw Ridge Farm, provides flexible and immediate respite care for children and young adults with disabilities - no matter how complex. And now South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and Swindon Council have vowed to find a replacement to carry on the service.
A statement on social media, released by the charity yesterday, said: "Most of you would have heard the sad news that we are not re-opening. I just wanted to write to you to say we are sorry that it has come to this, and we wish we could do more to help you all.
"We have had an amazing time working at Hop, Skip and Jump and have had the pleasure of meeting so many special children, staff and families.
"It has felt like a big family and we all used to feel so happy coming to work everyday, to make special memories and have lots of fun and laughter with the children. It has been hard for a few months, but the support we have had from you all has been incredible.
"We are really sad that this has happened, and we will miss the children very much. We hope that we can all stay in touch.
"Thank you so much to all of you. Also a very big thank you to the staff team who have all been amazing during this time, they have worked with love and compassion and we couldn't have asked for a better team.
"You will all always have a special place in our heart, thank you for allowing us to make happy memories that will last forever.
"Sending love and best wishes to all the children, carers and staff."
In a full statement, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “As a local parent who has used this service myself, I understand just how vital it is for parents of children with disabilities to have a few hours of respite that this service provides. I know first-hand that caring can be pretty gruelling at times. Just to be able to do normal things, such as go to the shop and have some time for yourself to recharge your batteries is so important, which is why I worked to facilitate to bring this service to Swindon ten years ago and became an ambassador for the charity.
“We have been aware for several months that there have been issues with Hop, Skip and Jump. I have been fundraising to help to support this local charity like many of us, and I am extremely sad that despite this, the service has come to an end. The positive news is that like me, Swindon Borough Council understands the importance of this service for parents with children with disabilities and they have indicated that they are going to carry on the service at Upper Shaw Farm, at the Centre. They are in the process of tendering for a new provider, and the council have informed me that they will be making a decision about the new provider as early as 13th July.
“The issue for us now is how quickly can the new provider get to work and provide support for parents at the centre. The Council have indicated that they will be able to begin to provide service again in September. This is positive news; however, I am concerned about the gap in support during the summer. I know that for parents of children with disabilities, it will be a long summer without this service. The council have informed me that they are proposing to use some of the Aiming High funding to support equipment and provision at home.
“I met with the Head of Children’s Services in Swindon a few weeks ago to discuss this, and I will be having a further meeting to discuss my concerns about the gap in the service.
“Like me, those of you who have used the service will know that we’ve got some brilliant staff at Hop, Skip and Jump who are very sadly being made redundant. These are the sort of people we want to continue to be involved in respite care in Swindon. I am going to be asking if anything more can be done between now and September to help parents with respite care.
“Overall, I am confident that we are going to get a provider into the centre to carry on with the important job of respite care for Swindon families. I am glad that the money I have raised for Hop, Skip and Jump will still be used for respite care to benefit families in Swindon and I will ensure that the council continues to provide its statutory duties and care of children with disabilities.
“I understand the anxieties of parents and I will continue to work hard to try and get a solution that delivers benefit to all of those children and families who rely on this vital service, as quickly as possible.”