Press Release: Headline: Wednesday 10th January 2024, The New Forest, Hampshire: A Hampshire autism charity is being inundated with requests for help due to failing education, social and healthcare services, yet it is itself struggling to secure predictable long-term funding. Parents of children and young people living with autism, frustrated by long waits and ineffective community services, are turning to Positive Path Foundation – a specialist charity that delivers preventative strategies to address the many negative outcomes of their condition. In fact, the funded bodies themselves: Local Authority SEN, Schools, GPs, Social Prescribers and Mental health Services (CAMHS) are also referring individuals and their families directly to Positive Path Foundation, admitting they are not equipped or resourced to deal adequately with autism. Founded by Jane Atkinson, an autism therapist with 25+ years’ experience and Mother to a once severely autistic child who is now a high-functioning autistic 25 year-old, Positive Path Foundation addresses this growing gap in services. Jane explains: “The Charity provides a lifeline of support for our 90+ members and their families that is missing both locally and nationally.” On education: “There are no more spaces for specialist provision within the education system, so thousands of autistic children and young adults are now completely excluded from school or college. Most mainstream schools are just not equipped with the right resources or specialist teachers to meet the needs of these young people.” On mental health: “The social care system for autistic people is also broken and under-resourced. The burden of failures elsewhere falls on mental health services (CAMHS), which in turn cannot cope with the demand. The detrimental effect of this widening gap in provision on the mental health of young people with autism is the reason for the large number of referrals to us.”
Jane says she is taking the issue to Parliament. “Most families don’t have the energy to fight any more and I am prepared to take this to no.10 Downing Street. We are bombarded with demand from a failing resource-starved system, are well qualified and able to play our part, yet we also consistently struggle to find the very much more modest financial support we need to fill the gap. We are adding more and more new members, yet we are wasting valuable time and effort fundraising: trying to secure piecemeal the consistent financial support we need. Ironically many referrals come directly from the system that is funded to provide support, but can’t do so.” Background: Autism and Education Nationally, 160,000 children and adults now face up to 3 years wait for the autism assessment they need to receive education or benefit support. Once they have a positive diagnosis, they can then face a further fight to apply for EHCP and a further 6-12 month wait if successful before they can be considered for educational support. Autism and Mental Health Unsurprisingly, faced with years of delay and adversity from the system that is supposed to support them, the mental health of many high-functioning autistic children and young adults deteriorates with broad-ranging impact on their welfare and that of their families. The results of these mental health challenges are revealed in statistics on unemployment, exclusion from education, internment in institutions, incarceration and even suicide. The number of people with autism detained as inpatients in the healthcare system because of a lack of provision in the community is a national concern.