Leeds Autism Services

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Up and down the country, there are thousands of people doing good deeds every day, and we decided to celebrate the great work that charities undergo with a regular feature on Tuesdays, to tie-in with #CharityTuesday on Twitter. This week, we caught up with Leeds Autism Services to find out more about them.

Where are you based and what geographical areas do you support people in?
Leeds Autism Services has 2 vocational bases in Armley and Hunslet, a residential home situated in Chapel Allerton and a single occupancy supported living house in Burley. We also provide an outreach service supporting people in their own homes and in the community. The vast majority of people we support are based in Leeds where we provide a city-wide service. We also provide some support to people from Wakefield and Bradford.

How do you support people?
We aim to provide and develop a range of services for adults on the autism spectrum which are specialised, innovative, of high quality and well resourced; we continually seek to improve models of good practice which are delivered by a highly trained staff team. Our vocational and community services are accredited by the National Autistic Society.
We provide bespoke packages of support for adults of all abilities on the autism spectrum which means we are able to tailor packages based solely on the needs and wishes of the individual. As a result of this approach our services offer a very diverse range of support including social and emotional support, community integration, support with communication and social understanding, access to leisure activities, arts (including performing arts), access to work and education and support with complex behavioural needs. LAS use a Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) model and aim to promote choice and independence amongst adults with autism.
LAS also works closely with other organisations to promote understanding and acceptance of autism within the wider community.

How did the charity come to be founded?
The charity was founded by the parents of one of the people we support. Their son was diagnosed with autism at an early age, however as he became an adult they realised that there was no specialist autism provision in the area which would be able to support him after they had passed away. They and members of their church decided to open a residential provision, Ashlar House, as a Christian charity in 1985. The charity was then established as Leeds Christian Homes for Adults with Autism (LCHAA). It branched out into adult day services in 1995 after recognition that the people who lived in the residential home needed activities away from home, this allowed the charity to start providing support for adults with autism other than those who lived at Ashlar House. Although the charity still has a Christian board of trustees, it became Leeds Autism Services in 2005 to reflect the fact that we provide support people from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds. In 2014 Leeds Autism Day Services was rebranded as LAS Vocational and Community Services as we had moved away from a ‘day centre’ model with the focus now being on supporting people to live fulfilled lives in a range of settings.

How many people do you have working at the charity?
We currently have around 100 staff in total which includes support staff, managers and admin staff. We also have a board of voluntary trustees which oversees the running of the charity. So that we can offer mainly 1:1 support to individuals.

How can people support you?
Although we receive local authority funding to pay salaries and ensure we are able to keep our bases open, we rely on charitable donations to ensure our services are well resourced with up-to-date equipment. This can include things such as IT equipment to assist with communication and social understanding, sensory equipment, vehicles to ensure people are able to access activities inaccessible by public transport, kitchen / life-skills equipment, arts & crafts materials, musical equipment and gardening equipment.

We are very grateful to people who support us whether this be through monetary donations, organising fundraising events on our behalf or by using Virgin Money Giving
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?uniqueVmgCharityUrl=las
our fundraising team will be able to assist you with this. karlwilson@las.uk.net 0113 2452645

We would really like to work alongside businesses in Leeds to build up strong links within the business community and to promote the strengths of people with autism within the workforce.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Leeds Autism Services have faced many challenges along the way, and continue to do so. However, we have been lucky in managing to work with and overcome many of these challenges and hope that we will continue to do so. Our main challenges have included:
– Keeping up with changing legislation and amendments to the landscape of adult social care provision
– Maintaining adequate funding streams during times of austerity and ensuring the people we support are still able to access a well-resourced service
– Managing our rate of growth in such a way that the charity maintains high standards within viable budget limitations and ensuring we can continue to provide quality support to those who need it. Specialist autism provision of this type remains scarce in Leeds, and increases in rates of diagnosis over the years have also ensured increased demand on our services.

Do you have any charity events coming up and where can people find out about these events?
Each year at the beginning of April we run an event: World Autism Awareness Day #BiggerAndBetterInLeeds, the event is to raise autism awareness and promote autism acceptance within the Leeds area. Throughout the day we have guest speakers giving informative talks on autism who work within the brief of promoting a positive view of people with the condition. We also invite local groups with autism links to hold stalls with the view of ensuring people are aware of the services which are available to them.

We regularly hold other events to fundraise and promote autism acceptance. Upcoming events can be found on our website www.las.uk.net or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/leedsautismservices

Is there any advice you could give to other charities?
I don’t really feel that I’m in a position to provide advice on behalf of the whole organisation, however from a personal point of view I suppose my advice would be:
Always maintain a passion for what you are doing and don’t lose sight of who you are doing it for. You will face many challenges and frustrations which can at times be disheartening. I’ve found that the best way to regain perspective is by spending time with the people we support and reminding myself of the good work that is done. Another thing I would advise is to not stretch yourself too thinly and remember the bigger picture. There are so many people out there who need help and it would be impossible to reach them all without causing irreparable damage to the charity. Advise people and help them but bear in mind that the better you manage your growth, the more people you’ll be able to help in the long run. Finally, be willing to adapt and make mistakes along the way; everyone makes mistakes and they are often the best way to learn. Listen to the viewpoints of others and accept that there may be better ways of doing things than the way that you thought was right!

You can find out more about Leeds Autism Services at their website or via Facebook or Twitter.