Family Support Service
One of our long established essential services is our Family Support provision which is based in the local communities across Northern Ireland through family support groups and individualised support services. There have been and will continue to be many challenges in this time of change but our staff continue to have the skills, energy and resolve to make sure as many families as possible can benefit from the heightened awareness of Autism and the support needed by families.
We rely heavily on our support group network which continues to be the bedrock of our service steeped in the principles of community development where volunteer parents and carers provide advice and support to other parents.
The local groups managed by local parents, not only provide tremendous support for local families living with Autism, but also feed directly into the strategic direction of the organisation. In turn, our groups receive staff support in complying with legislative regulations, insurance and finance as well as the regular advice on and access to training and service development options.
All support groups are offered the opportunity to take part in Child Protection/Vulnerable Adult Safeguarding training which was provided by 'Volunteer Now' and the 'Belfast HSCT'. This gave the charity an opportunity to keep up to date with current legislation and best practice in this crucial area of child protection.
Some of our more established support groups funded throughout the year and organised summer schemes and events for their members to provide much needed respite for families. Another of our long established branches is working alongside Positive Futures to provide a summer scheme which will ensure that families have a social outlet and activities for their children during the summer.
We have developed a unique 'Family Support Service' which provides critical, community based support to adults/children with ASD and parents and families living with ASD. It links parents to the information, support, assistance and services they need. At present this service is available in the Northern Trust working alongside the ASD team.
Another vital and much in demand service is our Advice Line. In 2015/16 we received over 2,000 calls, emails and visits from parents who are at crisis point and need a listening ear, support and signposted to appropriate services in their area.
As we look to 2017, our hope is to build on our support to children/individuals with ASD and their families, by providing education programs to build up resilience and improve knowledge and skills. We will continue to work with professionals in the field of ASD and to ensure the involvement of all our key stakeholders in the ongoing developments within our family support Service.