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Asperger East Anglia charity boss hits out in funding row

PUBLISHED: 13:43 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:43 02 January 2019

Thecla Fellas , manager Asperger East Anglia that are going to have to make some tough decisions regarding the charity's future. Picture: Steve Adams

Thecla Fellas , manager Asperger East Anglia that are going to have to make some tough decisions regarding the charity's future. Picture: Steve Adams

Archant

The boss of an autism charity has said she is 'beside herself with anger' after it was denied the funding it says it needs to continue providing services in Norfolk.

Thecla Fellas, chief executive of Asperger East Anglia.
Photo: Bill SmithThecla Fellas, chief executive of Asperger East Anglia. Photo: Bill Smith

Established in 1998, Asperger East Anglia (AEA) provides support to hundreds of adults and their carers in Norfolk and Suffolk diagnosed with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism.

Funded by Norfolk County Council (NCC), earlier this year the charity approached the local authority for an increase in funding of £25,000 to allow it to employ another member 
of staff and meet the growing demands being placed on its services.

But the request was refused by the council and instead a 12-month extension of the current £74,937 funding was proposed, a figure the charity has declined, as it is claims it is not enough to run an effective service.

Thecla Fellas, chief executive of AEA, said the decision to refuse the funding extension had not been an easy one.

“The ‘financial envelope’ that has been pushed across the table to AEA to support a service NCC could be proud of is not enough, it wasn’t three years ago when nobody bid for the contract to deliver it and it is not enough now,” she said.

The decision means come March, when the current funding runs out, the charity may have to close is Norwich offices in St John Maddermarket, a repercussion Ms Fellas said would cause people to suffer: “I feel beside myself with anger that the importance of our presence and the support we deliver in Norwich is not deemed important enough by the local authority, the extra funding we need in order to remain in [the city centre] won’t break the bank,” she said.

Adding that the charity heard from people who were struggling on a weekly basis, Ms Fellas also called on Tracey Walton, NCC’s Commissioner for Autism to ‘start fighting for the people her title says she represents’.

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council said: “We are continuing to invest in support and diagnosis services for people with Asperger syndrome in Norfolk and are maintaining funding at a time when our resources are under continued pressure.

“We have been working closely with AEA and our other providers, as we look to recommission these services. This is ongoing and we want to continue discussions with all those who provide these services, including AEA.”

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