It is the party season and I am looking forward to 2011 with mixed feelings. There is huge concern about funding of services from parents, users, other organisations and, of course, from our team here at Resources. The worst thing is not really knowing what is happening and what the future holds. Currently we are feeling quietly optimistic but keeping a close eye on things as events unfold. What is clear is that Aiming High for Disabled Children short breaks funding is ending everywhere on March 31st 2011.
That is very bad news for us along with many other organisations who offer short breaks for families with a disabled child. It is even worse for those families and their children. Short Breaks has been a runnaway success. It is rare for me to give praise for a particular funding stream to the extend of saying that this has changed lives but I unreservedly can say AHDC short breaks has changed and improved families lives dramatically.
Many of our children and young people have, for the first time, been able to access and most importantly enjoy a leisure service that is regular, reliable and accepting. Their families have been given time to relax, even if is just of a couple of hours and have done so in the knowledge that their young person is receiving a service appropriate to their needs. It has been fabulous!
It is essential that we learn from Aiming High. Our families have had their expectations raised and our children and young people have gained confidence and independence. It has not always been an easy journey but it has been an exciting one that has proved that children and young people with autism and with behaviour that may challenge others can and do have fun and make friends if they are given the right opportunities to do so.
Many of RfA parents have been kind enough to write to MP's and local Councillors to tell them the difference our service has made and it has been humbling to read their stories.
Thankfully we are not totally dependent on statutory (money from government) sources. We have a range of funders to whom we are deeply indebted and our services will continue in some form or another next year. There may well be changes though and I will try to keep everyone informed as I know what these are.
The coalition are committed to expanding individual and personal budgets and it may be that some of our previously heavily subsidised services will have to be paid for in that way. This will only apply to those who are eligible for these budgets but my advice to anyone with a disabled child or adult is to make sure you get an assessment done for an individual payment as soon as you can and make sure that assessment includes an element for leisure opportunities.
I think 2011 is going to be interesting and exciting. The Autism Bill should begin to make a difference to adults and I hope that our children will continue to benefit from some form of short break provision when the dust settles. It is just a case of making our voices heard and then waiting to see.
Whatever happens, all of us at Resources for Autism wish you a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2011 and please do keep in touch.