PARENTS who have described a children's charity centre as a 'lifeline', are fearful of what the upcoming closure of the centre means for their children with additional learning needs. 

Many parents have been in touch with The Argus to voice their concerns about the closure,  with one labelling the impending closure, 'a travesty'.

Tafarn Newydd children and families service, part of Action for Children in Pontypool, is scheduled to close on Wednesday, July 31, with the centre stating 'funding' as the reason for the closure.

An Action for Children spokesperson, said:  "We’ve had an excellent and longstanding relationship with Torfaen County Borough Council but unfortunately, the funding available in the new contract was not sufficient to enable us to bid to continue to run the nursery provision and out of schools service when the current contract ends.

Togs Centre / Tafarn Newydd site in Pontypool, TorfaenTafarn Newydd site in Pontypool, Torfaen (Image: Google Maps)

"We are working closely with the council to ensure a smooth transition to new arrangements where provision will be provided based on individual requirements."

Jason Foustoul and Tracy Hatherall are the parents of Jacob, who has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, have said that Jacob previously went to Torfaen Play service during the school holidays for 2 hour sessions a day.

On this, they said they would often get called to pick him up early due to physical behaviours or staff's lack "understanding, experience or training".

Jacob, Jason Foustoul and Tracy HatherallJacob, Jason Foustoul and Tracy Hatherall (Image: Tracy Hatherall)

Jason and Tracy said: "As a family, we felt that as a service were unable to keep both Jacob and their workers safe, or provide a suitable service appropriate to meeting Jacob’s needs, resulting in us making the decision to stop Jacob attending the service."

Jacob's parents added: "Hannah and her team at Tafarn Newydd have gone above and beyond to ensure Jacob has access to a service that is bespoke and suited to his needs, grouping him with children and providing him with activities that support Jacob to develop social and community based skills he may not have gained otherwise.

"They have done this by working extremely hard to build strong, positive relationships with key adults at the service and providing consistency and structure to his sessions. Resulting in Jacob coming in leaps and bounds since accessing the service."

Jacob with Tracy HatherallJacob with Tracy Hatherall (Image: Tracy Hatherall)

Councillor Richard Clark, Torfaen’s executive member for children and young people, said: “I recognise that changes to services for children can cause some anxiety for those involved but I’d like to assure families that maximum efforts are being made to provide familiarity and consistency in moving to the new, needs led service offer delivered in our communities by our excellent Play and Early Years service.

“The re-tendering process for a ‘like for like’ service offer, despite best efforts, was unsuccessful, as providers either came in significantly over budget or did not comply with relevant requirements. 

“Many of the children who are supported by Tafarn Newydd are well known to the council, so a smooth transition of support will be managed by our Children’s and Families Services continuing to support children based on assessed need.

Jacob at Tafarn Newydd in PontypoolJacob at Tafarn Newydd in Pontypool (Image: Tracy Hatherall)

“Our Play, Early Years and social care colleagues are currently meeting families to assess levels of need and provide the appropriate support.

“The current contract with Action For Children has also been extended until the end of July 2024 in order to ensure effective transition and planning with children and families based on individual need.”

Parents response

Speaking of the decision to close the site, Tara Morgan, who's son Cooper has been attending the service since he was 9-years-old, said: "I am very disappointed with the council's decision to not continue funding for Tafarn Newydd early years sessions.

"My son Cooper who is severely disabled and has a rare condition as been attending this service since he was 9 months old.

"I believe Torfaen play will not meet the needs of my son and he would not cope in a playscheme setting. The council should not be taking away a well-established service that Tafarn Newydd provide for all disabled children in Torfaen."

Tara Morgan's son, CooperTara Morgan's son, Cooper (Image: Tara Morgan)

Zara Lavender has a son called Henry who went to the centre for a few years in 2019 until 2021.

Ms Lavender, said: "Quite frankly, I don't know how we would have come to terms with the prospect of life with a disabled child without Tafarn Newydd Action For Children early years' service.

"We were first-time parents, grieving for the life we thought we were going to have and Tafarn Newydd truly were a beacon of light during those dark moments. Even now, I know I could count on their support and advice. They're not just a play and respite service, they provide so much more for parents and children alike, the experience and skills alone being lost is a huge blow for Torfaen's child disability services."

Cooper's mum Tara Morgan, said: I am very disappointed with the council's decision to not continue funding for Tafarn Newydd early years sessions.Cooper's mum Tara Morgan, said: I am very disappointed with the council's decision to not continue funding for Tafarn Newydd early years sessions. (Image: Tara Morgan)

Amy Rogers, parent of nine-year-old Erin who was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis syndrome (a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body) stressed how supportive and helpful Action for Children were when she fell ill.

Ms Rogers said: "Action for children are always there to help not only with Erin but support us as a family, last year I was taken ill and was in a coma for over a month, action for children really helped by picking Erin up and dropping her home and given as much support as they could to my husband which meant he could be with me, I genuinely  believe that without them I wouldn’t have had a family to come home to as it would have completely broken down.

9-year-old Erin, who's mum Amy said the news of the closure is a travesty.9-year-old Erin, who's mum Amy said the news of the closure is a travesty. (Image: Amy Rogers)

"I am still unable to drive so action for children are still picking up Erin and bringing her home which means Erin doesn’t miss out but they give our son the respite that he needs, they are always there for us no matter what and I know for a fact this kind of service would not exist without them."

Parents are concerned that the closure of this service will mean they will need to take their children to other services such as Torfaen Play.

Erin with her familyErin with her family (Image: Amy Rogers)

Ms Rogers said: "Erin has attended a few sessions at torfaen play where she was treated differently and excluded from an end of summer party, I asks why to which they replied she was naughty I asked what she had done to which I was told she copied other children’s behaviour and filled a ballon with water I asked did they understand smith-magenis-syndrome to which they answered no and then I asked was this a special needs provision to which they answered yes."

A petition was set up via Senedd petitions, in a bid to save Tafarn Newydd in Pontypool, however this was rejected as the petition needed to be submitted directly to Torfaen Council.

Since Wednesday, May 29, a new petition via the Torfaen County Borough Council website has been instated and it will close on Wednesday, July 10.