Autism charity Wirral Autistic Society has been re-launched as Autism Together and its chief executive has revealed the organisation’s plans to expand its geographical reach.
The charity, which employs more than 800 staff and supports some 400 people with autism across Merseyside and Cheshire, revealed its new name at its first national conference, Autech 2015, held in Manchester on October 1.
The name had been voted for by the society's staff and service users, who chose the word 'together' to reflect the organisation's inclusive approach. The charity was originally formed 47 years ago by a group of Wirral-based parents who wanted to do more for their children.
Autism Together’s chief executive, Robin Bush (pictured at the launch), said: "We wanted to explain to people with autism, to families, to carers, to professionals that if you are associated with autism, you are not on your own and you don't have to feel isolated. You can come to our organisation and be part of what we do. You'll be part of our community and we'll provide the best quality support and services that we possibly can.
"We thought long and hard about the name change. We felt the word 'society' was traditionally associated with fundraising and awareness raising. We do all that invaluable work, of course, but we do so much more. The diversity of our portfolio is immense and we have stepped far, far beyond the traditional charity model."
In recent years Wirral Autistic Society has grown to become one of the largest employers on the Wirral peninsula, offering a range of services including respite care, residential care, supported living, a children and families resource centre and a range of day services including a garden centre and cafe. It also manages Port Sunlight River Park on behalf of the Land Trust. Earlier this year the society opened a state-of-the-art £1 million home for people with severe autism on its Raby Hall site.
"All the good work done by our invaluable staff will continue but now we are also set up to look beyond Wirral,” added Bush. “For some years we've had a plan in place to focus on other areas of the Northwest, such as Cheshire and North Wales. Having won numerous national awards and accolades for our services, we felt it was our duty to offer them to as wide a geographic area as we could reach. But we were also being asked, day in, day out, by people from right across the UK if we could help them. We hope that by launching Autism Together that we can grow organically to meet those critical needs."
But the Wirral Centre for Autism in Bromborough will retain its name, Bush added. "We are incredibly proud of it and it keeps us rooted and grounded in our heritage. It's vital that we don't lose sight of where we've come from whilst we are busy broadening our horizons."