Autism Bedfordshire has received a donation from Tesco as part of the Covid-19 Community Grant Initiative to support local causes that have been impacted by the lockdowns.
It is estimated that over 6,000 people in Bedfordshire are on the autistic spectrum and Autism Bedfordshire is the only voluntary organisation that specialises in supporting autistic people in the county.
But thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, it estimates that it has lost around £100,000 for the financial year.
The Bedford-based independent charity provides emotional and practical support for autistic children, young people and adults, and their families across the county.
The organisation helps to reduce social isolation and improve psychological wellbeing for autistic people and their families and improve awareness, knowledge and understanding about autism amongst families, professionals and the wider community.
Autism Bedfordshire Funding Manager, Gill Christmas said: “Following the Covid-19 outbreak we had to suspend our face-to-face sessions a number of times due to Government lockdowns, but our dedicated frontline staff have been working extended hours from home in order to continue our vital support through a comprehensive range of phone, email, social media and online services for autistic people.
"When restrictions were eased, we resumed in-person sessions where we could ensure that the required social distancing and other safety precautions were in place to protect our members and our staff.”
Through its Covid-19 Community Grant, Tesco provided a one-off payment of £500 to help provide emergency relief to Autism Bedfordshire, and other community groups and organisations struggling with isolation over lockdown.
Gill added: “Our unrestricted income from donations, fundraising, fees, training and retail had been massively reduced due to Covid-19 and we estimated a loss of around £100,000 for the financial year. Thanks to Tesco and a number of Covid-19 emergency funding grants from trusts and foundations, we have been able to stay afloat during the pandemic and continue to run vital services for the autistic community.”
With the grant, the group has been able to support adults across Bedford, Marston Moretaine, and Luton through its new community support service, helping them to regain their confidence and develop skills and independence to go back out into the community, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Gill said “Between September and December last year, we were able to offer community support sessions and successfully support autistic individuals. Activities have included walking in a country park, which built up to visiting the town centre and starting to use the shops again.
“100 per cent of our members reported back to us that receiving this support reduced their isolation, and 89 per cent (Bedford) and 94 per cent (Marston Moretaine) reported that they felt less stressed after receiving support from Autism Bedfordshire.”
Keith Jackson, Communications Manager at Tesco, said: “We’ve been delighted to have been able to support charities such as Autism Bedfordshire who work incredibly hard to support the community.
“It was great to hear about how the charity has used the grant, and we hope it encourages others to apply for support too.”
You can find out more about Autism Bedfordshire online, or call 01234 214871.