Bromley All-Age Autism Working groups and Board A look back at 2020 and our next steps in the New Year

How it started...

In December 2018, the Government announced an updated National Autism Strategy, which would represent people of all ages in the UK for the first time. It stated ‘The strategy must put in place the right health, care and education services, reduce social isolation and open up opportunities for autistic people of all ages’. In response, the Bromley Autism Partnership was extended to become the Bromley All-Age Autism Partnership.

The Bromley All-Age Autism Partnership brings together representatives including individuals that are on the Autistic Spectrum , their parents, carers, professionals and the voluntary sector to improve the support available in Bromley for young people and adults with autism and to raise awareness of Autistic Spectrum Conditions to the general public.

The work of the Working Groups is overseen by the Bromley All Age Autism Board (BAAB) which is a decision-making body whose main aim is to influence commissioners and seniors leaders to develop improved services within Bromley for children, young people and adults with ASC. The board is supported by an All Age Action plan which has seven priorities, each belonging to separate Working Groups.

If you would like to get involved, please email sara.groenli@bromley.gov.uk or liz.lake@bromley.gov.uk

Experiences from people with Autism on Lockdown

For most, the past months have been anything but normal. The coronavirus and subsequent lockdown have thrown people’s lives and routines into confusion and disorder. This has been incredibly difficult for everyone but especially for adults, children and young people who have autism and their families.

In their lockdown bubble, unable to see extended family and friends (on whom many families depend for their support) parents and carers have stepped into new roles. They have become teachers, fitness instructors, counsellors, therapists, entertainers and friends. Many families are not familiar with these roles, they were not expecting it to become their daily work and for so long. The changes and resilience needed to manage these new roles and responsibilities whilst continuing to provide care for their children and work should not be under estimated.

As children and young people returned to school or college, life begun to settle and start to feel more 'normal'. However, the second wave, Christmas restrictions and the latest Government announcement of an additional national lockdown has brought yet another layer of change, uncertainty and need for resilience once more. Through the work of the Bromley All-Age Partnership and Working Groups we will continue to listen, support and respond to our Autism community.

Children and young people said...

We all have different feelings, thoughts and levels of resilience. Some children and families are relieved and excited about the return to school. Others are worried and sad that they were not be able to say goodbye to their friends. Whatever the circumstances, this period has been difficult for families. Many continue to have mixed feelings about their child returning (or not returning to school) and concerns about the increase in anxiety, school refusal or challenging behaviour. Throughout the Pandemic children and young people have had the opportunity to learn new skill and we want to celebrate these achievements.

As children and young people have returned to school or college, life has begun to settle and started to feel more ‘normal’. However, the second wave and recent government announcements has brought another layer of change, uncertainty and need for resilience once more. We want to take the positive learning from the situation and to continue to listen to our children, young people people and their families.

Jason Rose, Chair of the Bromley All-Age Autism Board

Hi, I'm Jason.

I'm a financial services professional but, more importantly, the father of two boys with Autism. I also have social communication difficulties and I am passionate about improving not only provision, but access, for people with autism and their families/carers/supporters. I became involved in a co-production sponsored by Bromley Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group and following my involvement with these groups of professionals and parents, I was elected as Chair of the Bromley All Age Autism Partnership Board.

Two Board meetings have been held this year in June and October, whereby introductions and initiatives of the Working Groups were discussed and key successes and challenges presented. The Working Group and Board have representatives with Autism involved to give their views and challenge to ideas and approaches of the multi-agency professionals involved.

Achievements so far

We continue to work towards improving outcomes for the Autistic population in Bromley. Please read on to see what has been achieved so far.

Autism Awareness Week

From 22-25th October The Bromley Autism Partnership hosted a learning space in the Glades shopping centre to raise awareness of Autism in Bromley.

Despite the current pandemic, the store had nearly 300 Visitors who were able to ask questions on Autism and find out what support is available locally. Feedback has been extremely positive with one family commenting:

‘What really worked was the positivity and the willingness to help that all the volunteers had which really attracted the crowd to know more and get involved. Having people who really understood Autism and who were able to share their personal experience really helped and made me realise I wasn’t alone!’

The Partnership consists of representatives from Bromley Council, Bromley CCG, CASPA Bromley, Bromley Mencap, Bromley Well and Bromley Parent Voice as well as parents/carers and young people and adults with Autism who have a combined goal of making a difference in Bromley

The Director of Education, Jared Nehra, visited the learning space in the Glades during our Autism Awareness Week.

Councillor Peter Fortune, Deputy Leader and Executive Councillor for Children, Education and Families said: “We are keen to make sure that Autism remains a priority in Bromley despite the challenges of the pandemic. It can bewildering if you are seeking to support a family member or friend who lives with Autism and knowing what advice and support is out there is important”.

We have also developed an Autism Diagnostic Process pathways overview, aiming to uncover myths about the different routes one may take towards an assessment.

Please have a look at the pathways by clicking this link and share within your networks.

If you would like to give your feedback to the above overview of the pathways, please follow this link

We have introduced Autism as a standing item on our SEND Networks Champions meetings

The Champions meet three times a year to hear about key SEND themes affecting Bromley. On 30 September 2020 a group of nearly 40 SEND Network Champions representing education, health, social care, parents and young people attended a virtual session focussing on Autism.

If you are interested in becoming a SEND Network Champion or be added to our SENDMatters distribution list, please contact liz.lake@bromley.gov.uk

Our Children and Family Centres (CFCs) in Bromley are becoming Autism Centres of Excellence, in partnership with the All-Age Autism Board. Below are a few of the things they are doing in order to achieve this:
  • Providing training for all staff about ASC; some members of the team are undertaking a Level 2 Understanding Autism programme in their own time.
  • Displaying an ASC information board in every CFC.
  • Developing a ‘Safe Space’ in each CFC for those times when a young person is not coping with the setting; the ‘Safe Space’ is a pop up tent which has been allocated a designated area in each of the CFCs. This initiative will involve the CFC staff having previously been told what ‘soothes’ a child when they are in meltdown, and the CFC staff being able to provide a ‘Self Soothing Box’ to match that child’s needs.
  • Working with staff to ensure the Learn and Play sessions are ASC friendly. This will involve ‘now’ and ‘next’ visuals to help children with transitions. We want to ensure that our creche provision meets the needs of ASC children and their parents, so we are looking at the environment to minimise sensory overload.
The New Free Special School
Created by the Autism Advisors in partnership with CASPA

Last year, Bromley successfully bid to be part of the DfE’s second wave of special free schools. A tendering exercise was carried out during 2019 to identify a Trust to run the school, but no appointment was made at the time.

The need for provision to support children and young people with complex needs continues to grow and being able to go out to tender again for the Special Free School has provided an opportunity to review the specification to ensure it has taken account of the changing needs.

The school will now support 150 children and young people in Keys stages Two, Three and Four (Years 3 to 11), with a new site being identified to support the increased capacity.

The school will support children who have social communication difficulties (which may include a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder) with co-presenting social and emotional mental health needs, including high levels of anxiety. A diagnosis of ASD will not be required, but all children will have a complexity of need relating to social communication difficulties, emotional wellbeing and behaviours that can challenge

The Multi-Agency Centre of Excellence remains at the heart of the special free school, ensuring the site is a resource hub for families as well as delivering an effective and high quality education for children within their local community

We have had a number of applications received to run the school and we are in the process of evaluating the bids. We plan to invite the Trusts with the strongest bids to a joint interview with DfE early 2021 and will be announcing the successful Trust soon after.

Involvement of Housing to the Bromley All-Age Autism Board and Working Group 3

Lynnette Chamielec, Assistant Director of Housing (LBB) has been invited to the upcoming Board meetings and also attended Working Group 3 in November. Our representatives with Autism in the Working Groups and on the Board have noted that independence and finding sustainable housing should be a bigger focus in the action plan, and including housing colleagues is a key step in the right direction to improve services and make the information and support available Autism friendly.

Engagement update

We want to put the voice of our children, young people and adults with autism and their families at the heart of what we do. Through the Bromley All Age Autism Partnership we are ensuring that they are engaged actively in planning and evaluating the services they need.

Recent engagement activity includes Zoom sessions to hear families’ views on the Autism Family Support service which is due to be retendered in 2021. We want parent/carer’s views to help shape how the new service should be delivered. We also ran a short survey to hear parent/carer’s views on the current service delivered by Bromley Mencap including what things are working well and what should be included in the new contract.

We are also working with Your Voice in Health and Social Care and CASPA’s Awesome Autism Advisers who are helping us with the evaluation process for assessing and scoring proposals to establish the new Special Free School in the borough for children and young people who have social communication difficulties (which may include a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with accompanying social and emotional mental health (SEMH) needs, including high levels of anxiety.

Working partnerships - the metropolitan police

Introducing Dean Else, a sergeant working in the Metropolitan police service and strand lead for all neuro diversity matters relating to custody facilities in London. Dean is working in partnership with the Bromley All-Age Working Groups and leading a multi strand approach to adjusting the way custody staff interact with some sections of the Neuro diverse community. The programme would look at the custody environment and utilising people with Autism's lived experience to identify areas where adjustments can be facilitated and adopted.

Aiming to raise awareness and elevate the topic of Autism as part of every custody staff members mandatory training, Dean has ensured that Autism awareness training is provided to 700 officers and staff who work in custody across London so far. This includes six of the eight teams that service the Bromley area. Over the next few weeks, Dean will be delivering this same training to another 600 officers including the remaining two teams in Bromley.

The initial target aim is to have 200-300 Safety Net advocates by late spring 2021. At least one of the modules in this training will be Autism focused.

Team around every school (TAS) - multi-agency support for schools

This initiative is a partnership approach to supporting mental wellbeing with a multi-agency team around every Bromley school.

We recognise that schools are receiving resources, guidance and information from numerous sources at this time but we want to take the opportunity to remind you that there is an allocated multi-agency team of professionals available for your senior leaders, teachers and staff to reach out to should they need any support or advice in order to access the appropriate support needed in any situation.

This new approach is designed to be flexible and responsive to each school’s needs. We have a multi-agency offer for each school, with a single point of contact (SPOC) for key teams that enables schools to request support that is relevant regarding specific issues that arise.

The multi-agency team around each school is compromised by colleagues from each of the below services:

  • Education Safeguarding Team (EST)
  • Bromley Community Wellbeing Service (CWS)
  • Educational Psychology Service (EPS)
  • Bromley Education Welfare Service (EWS)
  • Inclusion Support Advisory Team (ISAT)

The offer will:

  • Facilitate teams across education, health and social care to work collaboratively with schools to improve community wellbeing and build relationships
  • Recognise the need to talk about our shared and individual experiences and emotional responses as a way of making sense of them and moving on from them
  • Offer evidence based intervention and useful resources to schools and settings
  • Support schools with the identification and support for the wellbeing needs of children and staff

Autism Myth busters - did you know..?

Myth: People with autism don’t want friends.

Truth: If someone in your class or at your work has autism, they probably struggle with social skills, which may make it difficult to interact with peers. They might seem shy or unfriendly, but that’s just because he or she is unable communicate their desire for relationships the same way you do.

Myth: People with autism can’t feel or express any emotion—happy or sad.

Truth: Autism doesn’t make an individual unable to feel the emotions you feel, it just makes the person communicate emotions (and perceive your expressions) in different ways.

We continue to work on...

  • Covid-19 and lockdowns
  • Housing and employment
  • Autism Assessment Waiting Times
  • Making the action plan truly 'all-age' and including Adults with Autism more widely
Created By
sara groenli