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Daisy Chain, the Tees Valley-based charity for families affected by autism, has continued to provide support throughout the covid-19 pandemic thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Through a mixture of newly-developed online and telephone services, alongside face-to-face provision, Daisy Chain’s staff and volunteers have ensured that the 3,359 families who depend on them have not been deprived of vital support during a period that has impacted autistic individuals and those around them more than at any other time.

For 18 years, Daisy Chain has provided holistic care and respite for children and their parents or carers alongside developing transitional programmes to support young people moving into adulthood. On-site services include one-to-one and small peer group sessions helping children understand their autism, develop social skills and combat loneliness and isolation.

The site’s 5.5 acres and farm provides children and young people with the unique opportunity to engage with their external environment. This includes animal therapy sessions, forestry skills-based learning, nurturing and growth of vegetation and flowers in Daisy Chain allotments and polytunnels. Key transitional skills-based learning supports children and young people to live independently, through food preparation and cooking skills.

Daisy Chain’s Let Autism Talent Shine initiative has been introduced to stimulate opportunities for young people and adults. With only 22% of autistic adults in paid employment, the charity is working hard to overcome barriers to employment. Across the charity young people are able to access work-based training and build work experience within Daisy Chain and with external employers.

Alongside the existing successful placements programme, Daisy Chain is developing new employability opportunities such as barista training within Daisy Chain’s Coffee Shop and upcycling within the charity’s upcycling team, transforming furniture and clothing that was destined for landfill into new, saleable pieces which are then sold through its Superstore.

Critically, the financial commitment made by players of People’s Postcode Lottery towards Daisy Chain’s core services has enabled the charity to hold the front line of support through introduction of new and adapted services.

To this effect Daisy Chain introduced a virtual call centre, enabling callers to access free support from trained autism care staff. It also provides online appointments via Zoom for both young people and their support network.

Demand for support has been high, with 2,004 individuals accessing the service because of the sudden and rapid forced change in routine and structure resulting from the pandemic. This has enabled the charity to co-support NHS colleagues and individuals struggling with mental health.

As Daisy Chain moves out of lockdown, continuing the freephone service will be vital, ensuring that families and children are able to overcome geographical barriers to accessing support.

Whilst the last 12 months have been very challenging, the ongoing support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery will ensure that Daisy Chain beneficiaries have much to look forward to.

Players have raised over £2.8 million for Daisy Chain.

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