North East businesses are being urged to take part in a charity football tournament which will raise money to support hundreds of local people affected by Autism.

Proceeds from the fourth Concept Cup will be used to buy equipment for new respite care lodges which are being built by the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

There are already two specially-equipped lodges at New Warlands Farms near Burnhope in County Durham providing vital short breaks for families, but more are needed to meet an increasing demand.

Four new ones will be built later this year and now – during Autism Awareness Month – the charity has been chosen by Concept to be the beneficiary of its fund-raising.

“We are delighted to be able to support the fantastic work of the North East Autism Society,” said Stewart Hunter, the sales manager of Concept – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Xerox – based in the Newcastle Business Park.

“When you look around the lodges and speak to staff from the charity you realise what a crucial service they provide.”

Proceeds from last year’s Concept Cup – involving teams representing some of the best-known businesses in the region – bought two special trampolines for a new Rebound Therapy Training Centre at Hadrian School in Newcastle, which is attended by 170 children with additional needs. Previous events raised thousands of pounds for local charities, Little Steps for Lily and The Calvert Trust.

Sophie Clarke, the events fundraiser for NEAS, said: “We are so grateful to Stewart and his team for choosing us.  Being able to offer respite for as many families as possible is really important.  A break from the often very difficult challenges of everyday life is so valuable.”

Each year the charity supports more than 400 children, young people and adults affected by autism or other disabilities.  Autism affects one in every 100 people and the rate of diagnosis is increasing.  But, according to NEAS, there is a chronic shortage of specialist care in the region.

“There is an overwhelming demand for our current two lodges, and we will soon be in a position where demand outstrips our ability to supply placements, meaning that individuals and families who are eligible for support miss out on the opportunity for much needed services,” said Sophie.

“Without our intervention there will be a lack of availability of support, leading to isolation and poor mental and physical health outcomes for the individual with Autism.”

The Concept Cup takes place on Friday 22 September at Goals Newcastle. Further details about entering a team or donating an auction or raffle prize can be found at www.concept-group.co.uk/