- Tell us more about how Angels Support Group was formed? How much has the organisation expanded since then?
Angels was formed in 2003 by a small group of Hitchin parents, facilitated by a local Health visitor. The parents all had children with autism and ADHD and at that time there was no support available in North Herts. We became a charity in 2005, and have grown considerably since, so that now we have over 1000 families in our membership and over 600 families accessed our services last year. One of the original parents is still managing the charity, and we have a small staff team of five, all of whom are parents of children or young people who have autism and ADHD.
2. What kind of services do you provide children with ADHD and/or ASD and their families?
We run a number of different services aimed at offering parents the support they need in an accessible way. We run weekly meetings for parents in Hitchin and Stevenage, during the day and half termly evening meetings in each location. We also provide a one-to-one service, where we can meet individually with families to offer them tailored support on any aspect of raising and supporting a child or young person with autism or ADHD. This service is very popular, as we can support families in meetings with professionals, and help them with applications and appeals, to ensure their child’s needs are met, as well as give personalised advice about sensory issues, developing communication, personal skills and life skills, supporting emotional wellbeing and managing behaviour, anything that comes up. We also can support through email and over the phone, and we have a moderated online Facebook group for our members to get support at any time. We also have a website, a library and we run some activities for children during school holidays.
3. What improvements have you noticed in children and their families who attend events and activities at Angels Support Group?
Parents tell us we help build their knowledge of autism and ADHD, help them to know their child’s rights and how to ensure they are supported, to have strategies to help support their children, and to work more effectively with the professionals who are supporting their children. We also hope to reduce the isolation some parents feel when they have a child with additional needs. We also notice our parents becoming more empowered and confident in advocating for their children, and as a result we see their children better supported and better able to reach their potential. Every family has a different journey, and some journeys can be tough but we are always heartened to see what wonderful young people the children grow up into, who contribute so much.
4. What do you do to raise awareness of the issues that affect children with ADHD or ASD?
Our staff team are all heavily involved in working with our local Parent Carer Forum, HPCI, who work with statutory bodies, giving a parents voice to co-produce improvement to services for our children. Staff members are working with CAMHS, with HCC on improving education provision and with HCC Commissioning and Social Care to improve support in the community for our children and families. Our Parent Support Manager is a director of HPCI and also sits on the Herts All Age Autism Board, and often meets with councillors and our local MPs to ensure that the needs of children and young people with autism and ADHD and their families are understood and considered by those in power. We also regularly do talks and training in our local community to groups such as Rotary clubs or scouting organisations, or anyone who will listen! We take part in local events too such as Hitchin’s Duck Race. These things really help as they keep our families at the centre of their communities.
5. How has being a Member of Pro-Action helped you as an organisation? Do you have any plans in the future that involve working with Pro-Action?
Being a member of Pro-Action has been a great help for us as we have grown. As well as providing us with key training in an affordable way, we have found the other information, such as funding bulletins and news updates really helpful. We are hoping to work in future with Pro-Action on some training around working with families with autism and ADHD and share the positive message about how much these children can achieve with the right support and understanding.
To find out more about the group please visit: https://www.angelssupportgroup.org.uk/