Members attending Autism Berkshire’s 2019 AGM were asked to give their views on the charity’s services and ideas for changes, along with ways that NHS autism services could be improved.
The meeting was held at the Thames Valley Adventure Playground in Taplow on Sunday, September 22, in conjunction with a fun day for members of the charity and their families.
All those attending were invited to write comments on sticky notes which were gathered together at the end of the event.
A range of aspects of Autism Berkshire’s work that were praised by members, including workshops for parents, benefits advice, leisure activities including fun days, trampolining and adult social groups, along with regular communications.
Suggestions included more services offering parents and carers opportunities for respite breaks, autism-friendly outings, extra activities for children and adults and help with employment for adults.
Ideas for changes in NHS services included more and better speech & language and occupational therapy services, more support services post-diagnosis and improved advice from CAMHS and GPs about what is available from the NHS and other organisations in Berkshire.
There were also concerns about the lack of understanding of autism, and of the needs of autistic adults, among GPs and other NHS staff and information about help and advice available for adults.
These ideas and concerns about NHS provision will be passed on to the county’s clinical commissioning groups and the NHS trusts responsible for running services.
The AGM heard that, despite a number of challenges, the charity had enjoyed another successful year.
Giving his report as the chair of trustees, Richard Flemming said that 2018-19 had been a good year for the charity, with the strong financial position reported at the previous year’s AGM being maintained, with reserves further improved by a legacy donation in 2019.
Increased fundraising activity reflected a need to replace further reductions in grant funding from local authorities and the NHS with money from charitable trusts and other bodies, backed up by fundraising work in the community in Berkshire.
Two new trustees were elected, increasing the board’s membership to five people. Adam Bermange is the new treasurer, and Conor O’Connor is a trustee.
Members were then invited to ask questions of the trustees and the charity’s management team.
Questions from the floor were about what was done with information about autistic people gathered by councils over the past decade since the Autism Act became law; the recent changes to rules on eligibility for blue badges, which are expected to see more autistic people and their parents or carers qualifying for them; and whether it would be possible to restart a youth group for autistic children in Slough.
The chief executive officer, Jane Stanford-Beale, said that the information about autistic residents being collected by councils was being used to help to inform service development by the councils and other bodies, including the NHS.
She said that changes to the blue badge system were still at an early stage and added that high scores for mobility issues in relation to benefits such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) could help to underline these issues in blue badge applications. Autism Berkshire’s benefits expert Kevin Jackson can help to make sure that these are clearly identified in benefit applications.
She added that the existence of another youth group for disabled children in Slough, that local authorities saw as suitable alternative provision, made it hard to secure funding to run a dedicated group for autistic children.
- Click here to read Autism Berkshire’s 2018-19 Annual Review.