A MUM and dad say they have lost their safety net and are worried for their blind son’s future once Newport City Council pull out of a Gwent-wide children’s special needs service.

Two-year-old Diego was born with severely limited vision, and is registered blind, although the extent of his vision loss is not yet known.

His mum and dad, Sammy Holland and Daniel Thomas of Elgar Circle in Newport, said they were “devastated” when they noticed five weeks after his was born that something wasn’t quite right.

“I have an eight-year-old daughter as well as Diego, and I thought he was going to be born just the same,” said Ms Holland.

“I never ever thought we would be in this situation. We wondered how we were going to explain to people, and how we were going to explain to his sister. I don’t think you ever really come to terms with something like that as a parent.”

READ MORE: Newport City Council defend their decision to withdraw from SenCom

“It was just devastating when we found out about his vision,” added Mr Thomas.

“It felt like our world was caving in on itself.”

Aged just five-months-old, Diego was referred to a Gwent-wide support service for children with sight, hearing and communication needs.

Known as SenCom, the Sensory and Communication Support Service supports children in Newport, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire and Torfaen with mild to severe needs from 0-19-years-old.

The service is currently funded by all five local authorities.

“SenCom staff did house visits first,” explained Ms Holland.

“They were just brilliant from the start. I’ll never forget the two women who came to the house. They made us feel completely normal, like it wasn’t anything to worry about at all.”

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE - Sixteen SenCom staff at risk as Newport council decide to pull out of SenCom

For the last year-and-a-half, Diego has been going to weekly session at SenCom’s Cwmbran base, sessions his parents have also come to rely on.

Mr Thomas said: “They’ve brought him on loads and they help us as parents a lot too. The facilities are really good there, and they have everything they need to help him.

“They really equipped us as parents . We really struggled with it when we first found out. Being able to sit and chat things through with the SenCom staff and other parents really helps.

“It’s about talking to people in the same situation as well. It really does feel like you’re the only person in the world this has happened to when you first find out.”

“We have never been made to feel silly by asking questions,” added Ms Holland.

“And neither of us have any experience in this. They make us feel normal and accepted.

“Last year we didn’t have a clue what to buy Diego for his first Christmas. But this year the staff at SenCom have rally guided us and told us the sort of things we can buy him that would help him along.

“It’s helps us hope for his future. We watch their kids and watch how far the others can go and it shows us how far Diego can go.

READ MORE: Petition against Newport City Council SenCom withdrawal draws more than 1,000 signatures in first four days

“ They know him as a person now. It’s going to take a new person a long time to get to know his needs. He’s really come on so much since he’s started there.”

In October, Newport council gave SenCom six months’ notice that they were going to pull their funding in April, 2019, to set up their own in house service for children with hearing, visual and communication needs.

The council have previously said the service will be “equivalent” to SenCom, and that no children will suffer as a result of the decision.

But parents have raised concerns regarding the lack of clear information about the new service, and the impact it will have on children in the four remaining Gwent local authorities who rely on it.

A petition set up by one parent attracted more than 1,000 signatures in four days.

Last week, the South Wales Argus reported the decision by Newport had put 16 highly trained SenCom staff at risk of redundancy.

Newport council say their decision shouldn’t dramatically affect the remaining service for the rest of Gwent.

“As he gets older, we don’t know how we’re going to cope without SenCom. People just don’t understand how scary it is watching your child grow up with something like this, and worrying that they won’t get the same support and opportunities as other children.

READ MORE: Newport Council withdraw from Gwent-wide Sensory and Communication Support Service

“SenCom can give him that support now, but it’s being taken away from us.

“The distance to Cwmbran doesn’t bother us. It’s not about convenience at all. It’s about how they make us feel and the support they give us. You need to build that kind of relationship up, it doesn’t just happen.

“You can see that the staff really love him.

“The system was all set out to help him as he goes through school. He’s just started playgroup, and he wouldn’t be there without SenCom, it’s that simple. We didn’t have to worry, but now it’s all so uncertain. We don’t know what’s going to happen to our son, and that’s terrifying.

“We’ve lost our safety net. Where are we going to be in a couple of years?”

A statement released by the council says young people and their families should experience more “joined up support” from services as a whole including Newport schools.

The statement continues: “Council officers have held ongoing talks with specialists including the National Deaf Children’s Society, RNIB and consultants in the field of audiology about the implementation of a new service.

“The council’s priority is to ensure that pupils in Newport who accessed SenCom will still receive the support they need.”