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'It's a lifeline' people rally to save autism support services

PUBLISHED: 05:00 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:08 24 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

A group of carers and people with autism have vowed to fight County Hall to save the charity they say has provided a “lifeline” to them in times of need as it faces an uncertain future.

Come March, Asperger East Anglia’s (AEA), which provides support to hundreds of adults and their carers in Norfolk and Suffolk diagnosed with asperger syndrome or high functioning autism, will have to cut back on the support it offers people in crisis.

The cuts follow several years of financial uncertainly for the organisation, which reached a head last year when an appeal for a funding increase of £25,000 was denied by Norfolk County Council.

At a carer’s meeting on Monday, Thecla Fellas, the charity’s chief executive, told carers that due to the charity’s decision not to accept the funding offered by the council the organisation was being forced to reduce its services.

She told attendees the charity would reduce the number of days it opens its Norwich offices and would no longer be able to support people who came to the charity in times of crisis.

Following the news, carers vowed to lobby adult social services, as well as local MPs, to highlight the plight of the charity and cause a change in autism services provided for adults in Norfolk.

Joan Smith, 73, from Forncett St Peter, said life without the support her family received from AEA would have been ‘horrendous’.

She said: “We moved to Norfolk from the North West because we couldn’t get any help there. When our son was first diagnosed it was 10-months before we got to see anybody about it.

“There was nothing in the North West like this, I found AEA online and we moved here and got the help from these people.

“We were all at sea when we first got the diagnosis because we didn’t know where to go or what to do.”

Jan Cole, a carer herself and a carer supporter at AEA, said: “A lot of people do say it’s a life line, the uncertainty is a problem and it’s awful telling people that we might not be here so it’s a really hard to know how much to alarm people.”

Jacqui Walsh, from Norwich, who was attending her first carer’s meeting at the charity said she was shocked to hear of AEA’s plight. She said: “I really feel like I need some help, and now it’s going to go.”

A spokesperson for NCC said: “We are disappointed that Asperger East Anglia have decided not to continue to offer pre and post diagnosis support as part of the Asperger’s Service Norfolk.

“At a time when our resources are under pressure, Norfolk County Council will continue to invest in these services and work closely with our providers.”

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