Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Staffordshire autism campaigner wins national award

Kevin HealyA Staffordshire man who has been supporting and campaigning for people with autism since his own diagnosis 16 years ago has been recognised with a national honour.

Kevin Healey, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, has been given a British Citizen Award (BCA) for his services to volunteering and charitable giving.

The BCAs were launched in January 2015, to recognise individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise by overlooked.

Healy, 42, has been volunteering – locally and nationally – to raise awareness and support people with autism since his diagnosis at age 27.

Over the years, Healy has established 2 autism charities, as well as a radio station to support people in his local community in Staffordshire. The radio station, which ran for 4 years, was run by a group of volunteers and was a great success. Kevin was also a non-paid director of The National Autistic Society (NAS) although he stepped down from that role to focus on his own charity, and his upcoming film called ‘Twin Brothers World Apart’. But he is still with the NAS as a Regional National Forum member.

Healy was a founder of the North Staffs Asperger Autism Association (NSAAA) in October 2001, which has since supported thousands of people through its dedicated helpline. Kevin has secured funding for the charity of more than £400,000 through applying for grants and donations.

In 2007, Kevin stepped down from his role at NSAAA, and was approached by a large number of adults who felt they needed support and access to services. As a result, Kevin set up the Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society (SAAS) later that year, which covers the whole of Staffordshire. The charity, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, has helped thousands of people across the county.

Healy also works to raise awareness of autism, including speaking in schools, colleges and universities. He also has a large social media presence, with a following of more than 170,000 people, and uses this as a platform to raise awareness and to answer questions surrounding autism.

In 2008, Healy wrote an autobiography, which is currently being made into a film. The film looks back at Kevin and his twin brother, Shaun, who is also on the autism spectrum, in the 1980s as children, and aims to education people on the lack of understanding around autism. The film is due to be premiered in Stoke on Trent later this year, with the hope of later being shown at film festivals around the country. Healy plans for the film to be shown in schools, colleges and universities to highlight the condition and how it can be missed by schools.

Healy is one of 29 BCA medallists who will be honoured at a ceremony on January 26, at the Palace of Westminster. Each will receive a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medallists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.

“I didn’t know I had been nominated so it came as a total shock when I found out I was receiving this award,” said Healy. “I won the Citizen of the Year award for Stoke on Trent and North Staffordshire in 2006, so I am delighted that ten years on I will be receiving a national award.”

Healy was nominated for a BCA by Julie Kearns, SAAS trustee and treasurer. “I have known Kevin for almost seven years, and he is so compassionate and dedicated about helping people on the autism spectrum,” she said. “Kevin has tirelessly campaigned for autism rights, and strives for earlier diagnosis and better services and support. There is little or no support for people after mainstream education, and adults can often slip through the net, and the charity aims to fill this gap.

“Kevin has received a number of awards over the years, but I am absolutely delighted that he will be receiving national recognition for his hard work.”

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