Orbis Group Marks Annual Autism Awareness Day with New Openings

Friday, 1 Apr 2016

No Text One of the Wales’ leading autism care groups has celebrated in the lead up to Autism Awareness Day (Saturday 2 April) with a host of special activities this week – celebrating a year that’s seen it announce the opening of three new sites and unique shop operated solely by those with autism.

Pupils, residents and staff at Orbis Education and Care kicked-off celebrations by organising a rugby match, a car wash, a raffle, a craft and bake sale and a sponsored walk to raise awareness of the condition which affects the lives of over 100,000 in Wales every day*. The group also celebrated by wearing onesies throughout the day on Wednesday and donned brightly-coloured pink and purple attire on Thursday – all in order to raise donations for the National Autistic Society (NAS) and awareness of the condition.

With autism provision in Wales recently described as “patchy” by the National Autistic Society (NAS), Orbis has worked to tackle these issues head on by launching pioneering work-experience provisions, developing new outreach and repatriation services and announcing ambitious growth plans to widen its services over the next 12 months.

The group, which currently owns centres in Cardiff, Brecon, Port Talbot and Newport, will launch three new state-of-the-art facilities and create 200 jobs across south and mid-Wales.

A short break and respite service called Tŷ Galan, will open in Porth and cater to children aged 8-19 while bringing 20 jobs to the area. Work is also set to begin on the renovation of a short break respite hotel and a specialist residential school within 18 acres of fields and woodland in Presteigne, Powys. Together the two new services will create up to 140 jobs and will provide education and care for up to 15 children and young people, 8 of which will be on a residential basis, enabling young people to live and learn on site.

Lucy Pottinger, Director of Education at Orbis Group said: “People with autism are individuals with unique personalities and it’s been great to bring everyone together this week in the name of a fantastic cause; raising awareness of autism and how we can support those who the condition affects.

“For us its vital that each individual receives tailor-made support that works for them. We aim to spread the message that with the right provisions, people with autism have the potential to live lives that are stimulating, rich and rewarding.”

Following its Autism Awareness Week celebrations Orbis Group will turn its attention to further expansion and finding news ways to support better communication, quicker diagnosis, more personalised treatment, and ongoing support as youngsters reach adulthood.

Changes to autism provisions in Wales

Having tackled issues such as outreach, repatriation, transitioning, and funding Orbis group have now also spoken out about recent Welsh Government plans to set up a new national autism service in Wales. Set to include assessment for diagnosis for children and adults, improved access to community services and support programmes, and better training for parents and carers  Lucy Pottinger has now compiled a go-to list of the expected changes, in order to help families affected across Wales understand how the changes will affect them:

What’s actually going to change?

The new initiative promises a more ‘joined-up’ care provision which suggests that there’ll be more communication between GP’s, carers, local authorities and independent bodies - more collaborative and logical procedures would definitely be a positive move.  Support must be available across the board for those who need it, and provisions must be made available across Wales to all individuals, regardless of their age or location.

How far will the funding really go?

Over the space of three years, the £6m funding which has been pledged will not stretch particularly far and it certainly won’t be possible to build many new physical services across Wales.  Public and independent sectors need to work together and it will be essential to draw up a true picture of what services are out there already and how they will be utilised in order to achieve the promises set out in the new initiative.

Will families have a say in the decisions?

Families and carers know the needs of their children better than any professional, so it will be crucial to keep parents and guardians involved in the decision-making process. Families must be given the freedom to advise services and professionals on what it is they need or want from them – and must be informed of the best way to support and help their loved ones with autism.

Will it be easier to get a diagnosis?

Once lines of communication are opened up it should become much easier to share information, meaning that vulnerable people should be able to obtain quicker and more accurate diagnosis. The guidance and support offered following diagnosis is also crucial to get right.  Gaining an understanding of an individual’s needs as early on as possible allows schools and families to implement support recommendations themselves. This will help prevent ‘breakdowns’ - which can result in costly reactive, intensive or emergency measures.

What will happen to people with autism after education?

Autism isn’t miraculously ‘cured’ once an individual reaches adulthood and leaves full-time education. There are thousands of adults – from those in their 20s to those in their 60s - who equally need support.  A five-year project called ‘Engage to Change’ could go some way to addressing these issues, with a £10m grant held by Learning Disability Wales set to be put towards working with 800 employers in Wales.

The more ‘joined-up’ approach should mean that bridges are built between local authorities and independent organisations – and independent care providers will be able to offer up facilities that fall comfortably into these plans, making the money go further. Facilities to help autistic people enhance their employability already exist and making them more accessible will ensure people with autism have access to the very best amenities on offer.

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