Tuesday, 19 March 2013

March 2013

There are a great deal of unknowns for Resources for Autism in the year ahead and like many small and medium voluntary organisations we are treading tentatively into the brave new world of framework agreements, individual budgets, joint commissioning and all kinds of new ways for local authorities to use the limited funds they have.

The impact on us is huge as we have a tiny infrastructure in comparison to our service base. Despite this it is hard for us to compete in what is now described as a ‘market place’. I have real difficulty in using the language of commerce to describe services that I believe are essential to those with autism. For me, day to day support, activities that enhance life and enable independence, support for fragile families, tackling acute loneliness and isolation and enabling communication and social networks are not the same as choosing which computer to buy or where to go on holiday or if you can afford that new dress. They are a fundamental right for all of us and to describe them as products moves them from a ‘need’ to a ‘want’. Something that is necessary is quite different to something we can choose to have.

Choice is another buzz word and at risk of upsetting a lot of people I am most unhappy with it. If we were talking about a world of real choice where individuals had an infinite amount of options and an infinite amount of money to buy those options then there is choice. Choice is limited first and foremost by what is available and how much money families have. People need local, accessible services with qualified, experienced and consistent staff. They need that at a price that is affordable. We provide small, local and expert but the problem is that that can never be cheap. So how can I make the equation work? The dilemma is do I reduce quality to bring price down? Reduce the amount we do so we only serve those with money to fund it themselves? Or take the line that we will battle on for as long as we can but may have to close if we cannot do the right thing as a charity and provide for those most in need at a price they can afford and in the way that we believe best serves our community? These are questions without answers at the moment. Austerity really is very austere!

On a completely different note, April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. As stated by Ban Ki-mood Secretary-General of the United Nations:

"Autism is not limited to a single region or a country; it is a worldwide challenge that requires global action."

It appears likely that the 1% level of autism in the population is reflected world-wide with no difference in race or geography. That is an enormous challenge to World Leaders but perhaps one that they are nearer at least having the will to tackle as information and knowledge is shared.
 We are doing our bit on April the 2nd and would encourage you to join us. Please take a minute on the day to use your social media to highlight the day and to wish everyone a happy World Autism Awareness Day. Tell them about us and perhaps about your connection with us. Remember the #resourcesforautism if you use Twitter or our Facebook address which is facebook.com/pages/Resources-for-Autism/309322822458491 and give us a ‘like’. Perhaps your actions will encourage one of your friends or acquaintances to volunteer with us or make a donation or even both, helping to make every day a Happy Day for someone with autism and their families.

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