EXCLUSIVE: Anger as Sheffield charity ends adult autism support service resulting in job losses

Autism Plus on Bridge Street
Autism Plus on Bridge Street

A Sheffield charity service which provides support for autistic adults has ended resulting in impending job losses.

Autism Plus, located on Bridge Street in Sheffield city centre, will no longer provide support for disabled adults at their homes due to 'external funding pressures'.

One angry parent told The Star she relies on the service so much that she may have to quit full-time employment to care for her autistic and epileptic son.

Charity bosses said the introduction of the national living wage, paying for travel time, sleep-ins and an increase in statutory pension contributions have all contributed to ending the service.

Bosses added the charity has been 'making a loss' on the contract for the past five years and has 'again been rejected any fee increase from the local authority for 2017 – 2018.'

But Penny Marsh has hit out at the plans to end the service and paid tribute to the 'wonderful' front line staff.

She said: "At no time until almost two weeks ago were the support workers aware of any redundancy or closure, this absolutely should never have happened.

"All of the service users have been let down, some might never recover from the impact. If my son can't cope with this I might have to leave my job to look after him.

"I'd like to thank all of the wonderful support workers that have made a massive difference to these vulnerable lovely individuals that depend on people around them to keep them safe, understood and loved to have some dignified normal way of life.

The Star understands staff who have worked for the charity for less than two years will not receive statutory redundancy.

A 30 day consultation process is already underway and the charity is organising the transition of for service users.

Services at Autism Plus' other centres in Doncaster, Hull and Scarborough will remain unaffected.

Philip Bartey, chairty chief executive said: "We deeply regret having to withdraw our support for disabled people and their families in Sheffield but we are a charity and unable to sustain state provision that the state is unable or unwilling to fund. We have carried losses on our contract for five years now whilst trying to renegotiate the contract with the council without success.

"The bigger picture concerns the fact that social care nationally is in crisis due to funding shortages and this is placing more pressure on the NHS. It is a fact that care contracts are being handed back to councils by providers with 95 councils across the country under extreme pressure as a consequence of contracts terminated by providers.

Perversely, and for reasons I cannot understand, other councils across the country (outside of the 95 including Sheffield in difficulty) are meeting the above costs in full.

"We will assist the council throughout our notice period to ensure that disabled people are transitioned back to the responsibility of the state and we very much regret the distress caused to service users and indeed to care staff deployed on this contract who are facing redundancy through no fault of their doing."

Sheffield Council has been contacted for a comment.