Tees Valley-based charity Daisy Chain provides vital support for families affected by autism. Thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, the charity has managed to continue its services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a period that has severely impacted autistic individuals and their loved ones. Through a mixture of face-to-face provision and newly-developed online and telephone services, Daisy Chain staff and volunteers have provided ongoing support to the 3,359 families who depend on them.
Care That Counts
For 18 years, Daisy Chain has offered holistic care and respite for children with autism and their parents, guardians and carers. The charity offers on-site services, including one-to-one and small peer group sessions, to help children understand their autism, develop social skills, and combat loneliness and isolation. The site is home to 5.5 acres and a farm, giving autistic young people the opportunity to engage with their external environment through animal therapy sessions, forestry skills-based learning, and nurturing vegetation and flowers in Daisy Chain allotments and polytunnels.
The charity also looks to the future, developing transitional programmes to support young people as they move into adulthood, and championing employment opportunities for autistic youths. Key transitional skills-based learning teaches food preparation and cooking skills, supporting young people with autism to live independently. With only 22% of autistic adults in paid work, the charity is working hard to overcome barriers to employment. Daisy Chain's Let Autism Talent Shine initiative promotes opportunities for autistic individuals, who can access work-based training and build work experience through the programme, both within Daisy Chain and with external employers.
Alongside the existing successful placements programme, Daisy Chain is developing new employability opportunities. These include barista training within Daisy Chain's Coffee Shop, and upcycling within the charity's upcycling team, who transform furniture and clothing that was destined for landfill into new, saleable pieces which are then sold through its superstore.
Support from players of People's Postcode Lottery has enabled Daisy Chain to introduce new and adapted services in response to the COVID crisis, including a virtual call centre. Callers can access free support from trained autism care staff and attend online appointments via Zoom. This support is available both for autistic young people themselves, and for their wider support networks.
Demand has been high, with 2004 individuals accessing the service in response to the sudden change in routine caused by the pandemic. The call centre has helped Daisy Chain support NHS colleagues by preventing individuals struggling with their mental health from becoming acute admissions.
The freephone line has been identified as a vital service to ensure families and children are able to overcome any geographical barriers to accessing support, and will continue as Daisy Chain moves out of lockdown. Whilst the last 12 months have been challenging for everyone, the ongoing support from People's Postcode Lottery players means Daisy Chain's young people will have plenty to look forward to.