About Us

Our impact

Why we exist

Governance & Policies

How we're funded

Luton Short Breaks

What we do

Autism Bedfordshire’s services help break down the barriers to social participation for autistic people and their families by providing places where they can go and feel comfortable, accepted and not judged by society. With the encouragement and support of specialist trained staff we help autistic people build their confidence, self-esteem, and social skills through taking part in social activities and mixing with other people.  Furthermore, we help them to develop practical skills and independence which will improve their prospects in life and help them be part of the community. Our aspirations are for them to have the same opportunities as people who are not on the spectrum, so that they can enjoy fulfilled and rewarding lives.

How we can help

The physical and emotional stress of looking after an autistic child or adult is a huge strain on the parents and we want them to feel that they are not alone in their struggles.  They can come to us for practical advice, information and emotional support so that they will be better equipped to cope with and care for their autistic children and any other siblings.  We provide opportunities for them to have a guilt-free break from their caring responsibilities, safe in the knowledge their autistic child is being well looked after by staff who understand the challenges that autism can present.

Communities

Finally, we raise awareness of autism in the community in order to reduce misunderstanding about the condition.  Through training and informative talks we educate schools, local businesses and community groups about the sort of behaviours that an autistic person may display and how best to respond to and be supportive of them.  With our increasing presence at community events, members of the public can also become more knowledgeable about and accepting of autism.  In this way we hope that autistic people will find it easier to engage with and integrate into mainstream society.

Why our services are needed

Autism Bedfordshire is the only voluntary organisation in the county that is specialised in supporting autistic adults and children. We are also there to support their families who become emotionally battered by the whole experience of supporting their child, fighting for the right services and trying to provide a normal home for the siblings. The need for our services increases due to cuts in spending across the NHS and Social Services. Local Councils are being forced to make significant changes resulting in many people who are on the autistic spectrum being left without the services they need, and rely upon.

Community amenities are often too busy and over-stimulating and the staff are not equipped to understand and support the specific needs of autistic people and young people and so there are limited places they can go to. They are therefore excluded from social, educational and life experiences that others take for granted. Often bullied, their confidence and self-esteem deteriorate and many develop depression and other mental health problems. They need places where they can be themselves and enjoy activities that are designed and run by people who understand their complex needs and anxieties and can support them if they become distressed. They need opportunities to build their confidence and learn skills that will help them cope with and integrate into society. Their parents feel isolated, depressed, emotionally and physically exhausted from looking after their autistic children and fighting for support. They desperately need to have a break and to learn strategies to cope with and support their autistic children. Siblings, often carers too, miss out on ‘normal life’ and need the chance to enjoy activities alongside or away from their autistic brother or sister.

Children can attend our groups over a number of years, so small improvements can be tracked and we have seen how these have led to significant improvements in their ability to function in the ‘real’ world. We have seen children who first came to us as confused, anxious and withdrawn individuals who, with support, encouragement and guidance, have blossomed into young people and adults who are more independent and confident to participate in and contribute to society.

How we were founded

Autism Bedfordshire was founded in 1991 by a group of parents who answered a local newspaper advert from a parent of an autistic child seeking other parents to share thoughts and strategies with. They knew that their children shared the same hopes, aspirations and worries as other children: having friends, being around people who understand and accept them and not think of them as ‘silly’ or ‘weird’, doing well at school, ultimately getting a job and living independently and being happy and fulfilled. They set the foundations for a charity that would grow to provide a range of places where autistic children could ‘be themselves’ and access activities designed and run by people who understand autism and can support them if they become anxious.

In 1994 they formed a charity, the Bedfordshire Society Working with Autism, which began to provide services for children and their parents, starting with a summer play scheme in 1995. Since then, the charity (renamed as Autism Bedfordshire) has grown to supporting over 1,000 families and autistic individuals.

To find out more about our history, click here.

Our Mission to Provide

  • A helping hand: practical support across the ages
  • A guiding light: information and guidance across the spectrum, and
  • A listening ear: making a difference across Bedfordshire and beyond

Our Aims to Provide

  • Excellent information, advice and training for all people
  • A high quality suite services and advocate for autistic people’s needs and aspirations
  • Lifelong support and empowerment promote social inclusion

Autism Bedfordshire is a charitable company limited by guarantee. It was registered as a charity on 14th November 2003 and incorporated on 9th January 2004 at Companies House, Crown Way, Cardiff, CF14 3UZ.
Registration no: 04632497
Registered office and operation address: Suite B1, 1 Hammond Road, Elms Farm, Bedford, Bedfordshire MK41 0UD.
The company was established under a Memorandum of Association, which established the objects and powers of the charitable company and is governed under its Articles of Association. Under those articles, the members of the Management Committee are elected at the A.G.M. to serve a period of 3 years, subject to ratification at each A.G.M. which is usually held in October each year – see the minutes of the last AGM here.
The Members of the Management Committee are Trustees of the Charitable Company and also Directors for the purposes of Company Law.
This Board of Trustees is strongly involved in setting our overall direction and vision, and the trustees understand how the charity operates and what its opportunities and challenges are. Monthly board meetings are well attended and our vision, mission and objectives are regularly reviewed. You can see who our trustees are here.
To view a summary of our 2017-2018 Annual Report and Accounts, please click here. If you would like to see the full version, please click here.
You can also find us on the Charity Commission website for England and Wales.
Autism Bedfordshire operates under a number of policies and procedures which can be read below:
Adoption Policy
Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy
Anti-Corruption Policy
Anti-Fraud Policy
Anti-Radicalisation Policy and Prevent Strategy
Behaviour Management Policy
Bereavement Leave
Business Continuity Plan
Child Protection Policy
Child Protection Policy – Appendices
Compassionate Leave Policy
Compliments, Comments and Complaints Policy
Compliments , Comments and Complaints Leaflet
Confidentiality Policy
Credit & Debit Card Policy and Procedure
Customer Care Policy
Data Protection Policy
Disciplinary Policy and Procedure
Driving Policy
Environmental Policy
Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy
Finance Policy
Fire Evacuation Policy and Procedure
First Aid Policy
Flexible Working Policy
Grievance Policy and Procedure
Health, Safety and Welfare Policy
ICT Policy
Intellectual Property Policy and Regulations
Left Child Policy
Lone Working Policy
Lost Child Policy
Maternity Policy
Media Policy
Medication Policy and Procedure
Mobile Phone Policy
No Smoking Policy
Paternity Policy
Privacy Policy
Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy
Quality Assurance Policy
Recruitment of Ex-Offenders Policy
Recruitment and Supervision Policy
Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Policy and Procedure
Shared Parental Leave (Adoption) Policy
Shared Parental Leave (Birth) Policy
Sick Child Policy
Sickness Absence Policy
Social Media Policy
Special Education Needs Policy
Staff Behaviour Policy (Code of Conduct)
Storage, Handling, Use, Retention & Disposal of Disclosures and Disclosure Information Policy
Student Placement Policy
Time Off For Antenatal Appointments
Time Off In Lieu (TOIL) Policy
Time Off For Public Duties
Time Off To Train Policy
Toileting and Changing Policy
Volunteers Policy
Whistle Blowing Policy and Procedure

The cost of providing our services is over £600,000 per year. All our services and activities are funded by grant-making trusts, local authority funding, corporate donations, individual donations, proceeds from fundraising events, and membership and service payments.

In this climate of ever-decreasing funds and ever-increasing competition for them, fundraising and donations from our members and the general public really does make a difference. We would be delighted if you would like to fundraise for our charity and help us continue to provide our vital services to improve the lives of those living with autism.

We are happy to offer help and advice, and we can supply collection tins, leaflets, posters, sponsor forms and publicity. For further information and ideas on how to fundraise, please click here. If you need help with your event or activity please contact sarah.grimes@autismbeds.org.

However you choose to support us, thank you!

Autism Bedfordshire has acted as the Lead Body for the Luton Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Short Breaks Consortium since 2013.
The Consortium’s services provide significant short breaks support in Luton for disabled children and young people and their families.
Last year (2018/19), through its short breaks services, Consortium members supported 461 children and young people in Luton (aged 0-18), organised 672 short break sessions, and provided 30,711 short break hours.
This year (2019/20) the Consortium has 6 member organisations.

We also work in partnership with Luton Parent Carer Forum.

The Consortium is funded by London Luton Airport Limited.

For more information about the Consortium and its services, please contact Len Simkins (Operations Manager): len.simkins@autismbeds.org
VCS Consortium – Publicity Leaflet
VCS Consortium – Annual Report 2018/ 19 (read version)
VCS Consortium – Annual Report 2018/ 19 (print version)

Meet the Team

Today Autism Bedfordshire employs 21 office staff and over 150 staff and volunteers to deliver our services to autistic children, young people and adults.

Our Staff

Children’s ServicesAdults’ ServicesFunding & FinanceTraining and Administration


Emma Reade
Chief Executive
Liz McTernan
Manager
Amy Gavin-Birch
Projects & Development Officer
Sam Pollock
Projects & Development Officer
Kate Osborne
Assistant Development Officer / Data Officer
Peter Tysoe
Assistant Development Officer
Sally Cripsey
Autism Advisor
Sharna Raine
Course Lead and Service Manager
Ian Baguley
Support Officer
Helen McHugh
Employment Support Officer
Lisa Bowes
Adult Skills Tutor and Support Tutor
Gill Christmas
Manager
Sarah Grimes
Corporate & Community Fundraiser
Ali Draper
Grants Officer
Cathi Grover
Fundraising Assistant
Sharon Sturge
Manager
Debbie Haddow
Finance Assistant
Len Simkins
Operations Manager for Luton VCS Consortium
Mandy Higgs
Autism Trainer
Liz Walters
Office Administrator
Philip Whiting
Data Entry Officer

Field Staff

For our Children’s Services, we have dedicated teams of Support Workers and Volunteers supporting the children.  These teams are led by a Senior Team Leader and up to 3 Team Leaders.  The Team Leaders should have at least NVQ Level 3 in Child Care, or equivalent education and social care qualifications.  The Support Workers have to have at least NVQ Level 2 plus appropriate experience.

Trustees

Autism Bedfordshire is very lucky to have five fantastic trustees who all bring with them a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise. Two of our trustees have an autistic son or daughter.

Ms Lauraine Montgomery, Chair – provides leadership and direction to the board and enables its members to fulfil their responsibilities for the overall governance and strategic direction of the charity; ensures that the charity pursues its objects as defined in its governing document, charity law, company law and other relevant legislation/regulations; works in partnership with the CEO and supports the employees, helping them achieve the aims of the organisation and to optimise the relationship between the board the staff; facilitates the board of trustees in stimulating excellent, well-rounded and carefully considered strategic decision-making.

Mr Peter Scott, Secretary – provides administrative support to the board; works in partnership with the CEO and supports the charity’s employees; has responsibility for ensuring formal records of meetings are kept; works closely with the CEO and Chair to ensure strong governance and oversight and communication with charity members, the board and Charity Commission).

Mr Jeff Bulled, Finance Director – monitors the financial standing of the charity; oversees the charity’s financial risk management process; reports to the board and CEO on the charity’s financial health; acts as counter signatory on cheques and funding applications; ensures annual accounts are submitted as required; liaises with external auditors and ensures finances are responsibly managed/invested for the betterment of the organisation’s work and for the charity’s beneficiaries.

Mr Philip Delafield – with a background in Human Resources consulting including the retail and care sectors, provides advice and guidance on employment matters, health and safety and premises management, as well as contributing to AB’s policies, strategies and activities.

Mrs Pamela Wrest – independent practitioner/trainer with over 25 years experience in the health & social sector, supporting children and vulnerable adults.  With a good knowledge of Health & Social Care Legislation,  Autism & Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) methods.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee or a patron, and would like to know more, contact our office.

26 years of growth

Cool Timeline

1991

1991

Autism Bedfordshire was founded when a few parents got together to find help for their autistic children, share experiences and support each other. They established a charity that began with a telephone helpline and grew into a suite of services that would give other families invaluable support over the years to come.

1995

1995

In response to the stress and exhaustion parents reported during the summer holidays, we introduced our first Summer Activity Scheme to provide activities for autistic children and give their parents a much-needed break.

2002

2002

Our 2001 membership consultation showed families also wanted to go out together and meet others in a similar situation. In response to this we launched a term-time Saturday morning support/activity group called ‘Loads of Autistic Fun’ (L.O.A.F.) which was for children with autism up to age 12, their siblings and parents.

2004

2004

Our 2003 member consultation found that parents wanted social activity groups for their teenage children who often felt isolated and withdrew from society due to ridicule or bullying by their peers. We therefore introduced our fortnightly evening youth clubs for high functioning autistic children aged 10 to 17 years.

2007

2007

We launched our Adult Services with an Adult Skills Project – a one day a week course teaching communication, social, employment and independence skills.

2008

2008

We set up our first Adult Social Group, providing social opportunities in the evening for adults with Asperger Syndrome.

2009

2009

Following the Autism Act 2009, the Government issued statutory guidance for local councils and NHS bodies to deliver services for autistic adults. As the only specialist autism provider in the county, Autism Bedfordshire was invited to be a key participant in developing the Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives Autism Strategies. We were commissioned to run an extensive Autism Awareness Training programme for professionals throughout Bedfordshire.

2010

2010

We began the first of many training sessions for parents, starting with a talk from Olga Bogdashina on Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism.

2013

2013

We started to offer term-time sport and leisure activities for autistic people and young people, including swimming, golf and trampolining sessions.

2014

2014

We launched our ‘Progress into Education, Training and Employment’ programme designed for high functioning autistic adults who are looking to enter the job market.  We recognise that employment is just one part of becoming self-supporting and so we assess individuals’ needs on a broad basis which may mean we help them towards other goals such as living independently, travelling independently or socialising independently.

2015

2015

We expanded our adult social provision to include daytime groups for those individuals who were unable to access our evening sessions.

2016

2016

We introduced a programme of interest-led sessions to try and engage ‘hard to reach’ autistic adults.  We worked with experts in the field to provide art, rowing and tennis sessions across Bedfordshire.

2016 – Present

2016 – Present

We seek feedback from autistic children, young people and adults, as well as their parents, siblings, staff and volunteers through a variety of means, including annual written evaluation questionnaires.  Unanimously, we are asked to continue with what we are providing and to increase our provision.

Over the years, therefore, we have developed our services as follows:

  • Summer Activity Programme – we now run 5 different week-long schemes at two locations in the county.
  • L.O.A.F. – we run groups at 4 locations across the county.
  • Wanted Fun – we run groups at 4 locations across the county.
  • Adult Skills Project – in 2016-17 we ran 10 courses across the county.
  • Adult Social Groups – we now have 5 social groups (daytime and evening) across the county.
  • Employment Support – we provide flexible employment support packages for our members, ranging from group job clubs, structured one-to-one support, mediation with employers, interview practice and job searching.
  • Autism Training for professionals – we have developed a range of quality, specialist training packages that cater for a variety of delegate needs and have to date trained over 2,000 professionals.
  • Parent Training – we now run a programme of 6 week long courses each year plus occasional evening sessions to educate parents on various aspects of autism and how to best support their children. In 2016-17 we trained a total of 275 parents and carers.

And we still continue to run our helpline service!