• Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

Autism charity calls for support from MPs on expansion plans

ByPeter Barron

May 23, 2021

NORTH-EAST MPs have been urged to play their part in encouraging local authority partnerships to develop more effective support for autistic people in the region.

The call has come from the North East Autism Society (NEAS), which has unveiled a major expansion across the region, creating 250 additional jobs.

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson issued a plea for greater collaborative working when Redcar MP, Jacob Young, and Darlington MP, Peter Gibson, visited the recently-opened Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, at South Bank, Middlesbrough.

The new school, which so far accommodates 16 youngsters, was opened last September as part of the charity’s expansion into the Tees Valley.  An announcement about the opening of another new school, at Stockton, will be made in the next few weeks.

Mr Phillipson said: “Our ask of MPs is that they urge local authorities to work with us in developing partnerships that will not only benefit autistic and neurodiverse children in this area but save huge sums of taxpayers’ money at the same time.

“Autistic children and their families have been affected disproportionately by the pandemic, and the demand for our specialist support is growing all the time. We, therefore, need a joined-up approach to engage parents in the way education and support is delivered.”

Mr Phillipson told the MPs that a partnership approach, with greater specialist support and early intervention, would save local authorities significant amounts of money in the long run.

He also raised the ambitious prospect of the country’s first specialist nursery school for autistic children being established in the Tees Valley if partnership funding could be agreed between NEAS and local government.

Mr Young, whose Redcar constituency includes the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, said: “It has been great to visit the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre and to hear about the fantastic work NEAS is doing in the community, and how the charity wants to grow so it can improve the offer for autistic and neurodiverse young people.

“I look forward to continuing the dialogue with NEAS to try to come up with a Tees Valley-wide approach, with the aim of supporting autistic children here in their own area, rather than them having to travel outside of it for help with all the inconvenience and travel costs that involves.”

Mr Gibson, who has recently launched a Facebook forum for parents of autistic children in Darlington, added: “The field of autism is firmly on my radar, and it has been really helpful to visit The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, and to find out more about the work of NEAS.

“A collaborative approach, involving all agencies in this area, is key to delivering solutions that will benefit more children in the future.

“It’s better for a child to grow up in a family, and it’s going to be far better for a child to attend a mainstream school in their local area, and be part of their own community, so I look forward to continuing to liaise with NEAS to help identify improvements.”