The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has urgently called on any incoming government to address mounting pressures in children’s social care and SEND services, following the release of manifestos from major political parties this week.

ADCS welcomed the focus on tackling childhood disadvantage in some pledges, but stressed the pressing need to alleviate increasing strains in these vital services. They emphasised the importance of supporting children’s health and wellbeing, particularly their mental health, alongside a call for a comprehensive long-term plan to secure children’s futures and bridge funding shortfalls in children’s services. They noted that children have been overlooked politically for too long.

Rachael Wardell, ADCS Vice President, remarked on the emergence of common themes across manifestos, such as plans to recruit more teachers and expand childcare provision. She expressed ADCS’s readiness to collaborate with the new government to ensure these promises are fulfilled. However, she underscored the immediate need for a robust childhood plan and increased funding to meet the needs of children and families.

Wardell highlighted critical areas needing immediate attention, including pressures in children’s social care and SEND services, as well as the imperative to bolster children’s mental health support. She urged all government departments to unite efforts towards prioritising children and families in policy decisions to enhance their wellbeing.

Labour pledged to embed specialist mental health professionals in every school to provide early intervention for issues. The Liberal Democrats committed to addressing the SEND provision crisis by boosting local authority funding and establishing a new National Body for SEND.

In summary, ADCS’s message is clear: urgent action is needed to address current challenges and to secure a brighter future for children across the UK.

19th June 2024

A Glamorous Day in the Cotswolds with RED Luxury Life Magazine

A few weeks ago I was invited to the Cotswolds for a photoshoot and a lovely afternoon tea.
I wasn’t feeling that good however, some time out from work really made me feel so much better.

The Cotswolds is so beautiful.
The Bull Bridge hotel was really lovely and in a stunning location.
A huge thank you to Simon Brown – RED The Luxury Life Magazine for coordinating the shoot and the delicious afternoon tea at Hugo Lovage Patisserie, a real gentleman.
The photographer made me feel at ease Steve Knight and was easy to work with.
The make up artist and I Ayesha Baig clicked immediately such a lovely lady. It felt like I had known her for years.
Last but not least thank you to the amazing Steven Smith, a good friend and one of our charity Patrons working on the edit of this piece.
In the middle of the photoshoot there was a lovely couple asking what were we doing and admiring my dress. It just so happens their grandson had just been diagnosed with autism and asked if they could contact our charity for advice.
Please see the link to Red Luxury Life Magazine.

Writing East Midlands secures £460,000 for Beyond the Spectrum, a creative writing network for autistic people across the UK.  


Beyond the Spectrum is a three-year UK-wide creative programme, led by professional autistic writers. It will help autistic adults and young people produce live events, festivals, writing collections, podcasts, films, and role-playing game scripts. Participants will meet online and in person to create new work and make social connections.

Evidence shows * Rhyme and Reason Poetry Night – Writing East Midlands that by taking part in workshops, events and masterclasses, autistic people gain skills and confidence, and become members of a thriving community. Membership boosts well-being, and for some, reduces feelings of isolation.

Many have gone on to perform work for the first time and have been published. They report that participation increases their sense of agency, as the project encourages them to have their say, and by being heard, they can challenge myths about autism and unlock their creative potential in the process.

‘We are delighted and grateful to Arts Council England, The National Lottery Community Fund, and to the Shine Lincolnshire Mental Health & Wellbeing Community Investment Fund for believing in Beyond the Spectrum’s power and potential to have significant creative and social impact. This investment will enable us to expand the project to a national scale in conjunction with a host of excellent partners up and down the UK. We can’t wait to write with those autistic people out there who don’t currently feel as though their voices are being heard.’

Henderson Mullin CEO, Writing East Midlands


‘I started writing after my diagnosis at 56 and now have two published poetry collections so can vouch for the enabling aspects of being involved in creative writing. Having been involved in Beyond the Spectrum since its inception, I have seen the benefits that it has brought to others as well as the range and quality emerging from the autistic facilitated groups. I welcome this fantastic opportunity for WEM to extend those benefits to autistic people nationally.’

Trevor Wright FRSA

Diversity Trust Trainer, NDTI Associate and NHS Oliver McGowan Lead Trainer.

Beyond the Spectrum began as a pilot project in 2020 and has grown exponentially over the last four years.

*Research conducted in 2023 by Rachel Phillips, and Lai-Sang Lau, Senior Psychology Lecturers, Nottingham Trent University.

More information: Email: Sian Tower 



New partners contact

Web site:

Anyone interested in joining the waiting list for free places should register their interest here. Beyond The Spectrum (BTS) WAITING LIST ( 

#autism #inclusion #worldautismawarenessweek2024 #autismacceptance #autismawareness

#writingeastmidlands #creativewriting #unmasking #autisticexpression

#psychology #research @ntu @rachelphillipsntu #creativeinterpretation

#TNLCommunityFund, @TNLComFund

#arts-council-england, @ace_national

#shinelincolnshire , @Shine_lincoln


Abergavenny’s Youngest Autistic Councillor Goes Abroad for the Very First Time in His Life


Going abroad for the very first time in anyone’s life can be an extremely daunting thing, but have you ever thought what it can be like for an autistic adult in particular? Kyle Jamie Eldridge who is Abergavenny’s youngest Autistic Councillor did just that and as a result… he has come back a renewed and somewhat changed man. 

Kyle along with his fellow councillor and somewhat political and personal mentor Councillor Maurice Barnes and the Mayor and Mayor’s Consort of Abergavenny, along with the towns Twinning Association and Rhinos Football Club went to Beaupreau-en-Mauges in the region of Pays de la Loire in Western France for a twinning expedition to strengthen the bonds between the two towns. The expedition took place between the 28th of March to the 1st of April, across a range of countries, regions and settlements such as Abergavenny (Wales), Portsmouth (England), Caen (France), Mont Saint-Michel (France), Fougeres (France), Beaupreau (France), Cholet (France) and Clission (France). 

According to Kyle, there was a lot of expected travelling, but over a noticeably brief period of which people did not really have much time to themselves – meeting various new people and getting exposed to many new environments during the process of the expedition. 

Despite these common set of challenges everyone faced during the expedition, Councillor Maruice Barnes shares that: 

“Kyle was well prepared to go on his first trip overseas to Beaupreau  France where he was hosted by the local Mayor being an important person in our twinning delegation. 

He made his usual good impression on our hosts and this culminated in him giving our thanks speech at the closing ceremony where he reminded us all that ” There is nothing impossible to him who will try” which went down very well with all present.

It was great to see him enjoying himself while there”.


Despite Kyle being seen as having a good time during the expedition, he shares his inner most thoughts with us:


“Of course I was scared deep down, but how can I say it? How can I tell you what it was like to feel free, to feel, big things and believe when the horizon on the ferry looked you in the eye you could do anything… anything! In the horizons presence by the light of its landscape I was better than myself and from there all my fears subsided going into this new experience forever.


When I think of fear now, it is like a mountain – It stares you down thinking you will never be able to conquer it and victory belongs to the brave who never give up!


During the trip, the spirit of Wales was honed, carried and left in Beaupreau by each and everyone of us. Through that, we made our country proud, our own very way of life proud and our people proud… glory to Wales!


This was the first and certainly not the last trip abroad!”. 


Autism Acceptance Month/Week

BBC Radio WM interview!

I was very proud to be interviewed for BBC Radio WM earlier this month.

It was featured on Rakeem Omar’s Morning Show.

Rakeem liked my messages, especially the one to his Majesty, the King

and his family!

I hope you like the recording.  Double click image below.

Please share this newsletter with family and friends.

BBC Radio WM interview for Rakeem Omar for Autism Acceptance Month

Visit to WWT Slimbridge

Last week I had a great time visiting, a favourite place of mine, the

Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) Slimbridge.

I met Pete Lee, the WWT head of philanthropy and partnerships.  He has a very important job working with major benefactors and fantastic corporate sponsors, who help promote the great work the WWT does for wildlife and the environment.

I hope that I am able to help Pete and others at the WWT with their work.

Sneak preview…..

….The Horse and The Dragon

We are nearly there, finishing my 2nd children’s book:

The Horse & The Dragon, Trials of Friendship.

With the amazing help of my friend and editor/publisher, Jen Parker (Fuzzy Flamingo) we are now at proof-reading stage!  Planning to publish in the summer.

Will share details when ready.  I am very excited.

New Teemill products / designs

I have added some more products and designs to my Teemill store.

These include: premium tea towels, aprons and single greetings cards.

Just added recycled notebooks and picture frames coming soon.

See CoolArt2021 Teemill store

Greeting cards

Here are a few of my wildlife designs that are available on my web site.

See Greetings Cards Page

Thank you for your kind support

Visit my New Website


Marcus our First Steps Winner and a past Autism’s Got Talent performer.

Andi of Dadda & Daddy on Autism and Adoption  

Well here we are, my first article for AKO!

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their kind words following the radio appearance on The Aston Avery show on Gateway978. This is where Anna announced that I would be joining the charity and the feedback has been very moving.

I am thrilled to be working alongside the charity and hope that I can bring some extra to the table.  Being a two dad family, a SEN family and an adopted family, there are many angles to us which means we have slightly different obstacles to face.  That said we tackle these head on and usually with a smile on our face!


If you don’t know me, I run the Dadda & Daddy page on Instagram and since becoming a parent I have been fortunate enough to be a part of so many different projects in the LGBT+, Adoption and SEN communities.


I thought I would share a bit about what we have been up to recently and some of the things we do to prepare Lucy for these changes.


Over Easter we went on a little holiday to North Yorkshire.  This part of the country is very special to us as it is where my husband Darren grew up.  It is also where I had many childhood holidays. It is lovely to be able to now share this with our children.


Many children with ASD struggle with being away from home, however Lucy actually does really well.  Yes, we have some ‘wobbles’ at moments like eating in different places and she sometimes finds it difficult to focus on instructions but being in a new place can bring an increased load of sensory input.


What we do to assist are;


At home, we have also had a huge amount of building work going on at home which has been rather unsettling for the children.   We have done lots of prep work with them about what would happen.  However, this has caused them to be a little unsettled.  We just have to remember that it is a moment in time and we will come out the other side.


In some other exciting news. I have recently been nominated in the National Diversity Awards.  I have been nominated in the following categories.


I am very humbled to have been nominated.  What means a lot is that the initial nominations came from families who I supported through the Adoption process and families who I was able to sign post for support for their children. It means so much that they took the time to nominate me.

If you would like to vote for me, or just to find our more about the awards, then please click the links below.

I am keen to do some workshops in the future about SEN Parenting and Adoption.
If you have any ideas on what you would like me to discuss in my future articles on the site or have an idea for a workshop, then please do drop me a message on Instagram or you can email me directly at



Dadda N Daddy

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The Importance of Taking 5


I do always try to make the best of myself and smile even though I maybe feeling rubbish or tired. I always try to be as honest as I can when sharing my posts.
Many parents message me saying they feel isolated or they must be doing something wrong.
I am just like you where some days are good and some days are not so good.
I believe it makes parents feel better about themselves, when they see other parents go through the same difficulties and feel the same anxieties.
They are not a bad parent and we all do the best we can and love our children unconditionally.
Keep going and keep talking don’t bottle it up and remember to take 5 when you can. Sometimes my take 5 is a skinny latte and a piece of lemon drizzle cake.
It’s the little things sometimes that can make all the difference 💜
Anna Kennedy OBE 



Preston Clash To Mark Autism Awareness Matchday


The Hornets are delighted to designate this weekend’s match against Preston North End as our annual Autism Awareness Matchday.


Autism is a spectrum condition and affects people in different ways. Like everybody, autistic people have their own strengths and weaknesses.


Autism is a hidden disability, and autistic people face discrimination and barriers across all sectors of society – in the health and social care systems, in education, in employment, and everywhere in between.


It is crucial that autistic people, and their families and carers, can access tailored information, guidance and support to overcome those barriers, along with opportunities to explore their interests, develop skills and build friendships for fulfilled lives.


Here at Watford FC, we’ve been working with families and local organisations to make our stadium and workplaces as Autism-friendly as possible since making a commitment to accessibility in 2015.


Watford were among the first clubs to open a Sensory Room in the stadium, to provide access to matches for those autistic children with sensory differences who may otherwise find the noisy environment of a football stadium challenging.


The Sensory Room provides a calming area and offers an excellent view of the match from a comfortable and accessible viewing location. It features lower levels of natural daylight, sensory facilities for children to enjoy while watching the football and more open space so children do not feel crowded or uncomfortable.


The room is staffed by trained special needs professionals who are on hand to welcome and support families attending the game, and Harry the Hornet also visits the children at half-time to further brighten their afternoon.


The Sensory Room is also used during the week by local community groups and Watford FC Community Sports & Education Trust programmes, including the Golden Memories project for those with dementia.


The club also has several pairs of ear defenders available for use across the stadium, which can be collected from the Sky Lounge Reception on Vicarage Road when supporters arrive at the stadium and are then returned there after the match.


In March last year, The Hornets Shop at The Vic introduced an inclusive shopping morning every Tuesday with screens and music turned off to provide a comfortable and accessible shopping experience for those with sensory needs.


Both the club and Trust have also reached level two of the Disability Confident Scheme and have started working towards level three, which will see us become Disability Confident Leaders as we aim to bring more people with disabilities into our workplaces. As part of that work, we have a partnership with Step2Skills.


As part of Hertfordshire County Council, the Step2Skills adult community learning and employment support service provides opportunities for adults from across the county to get involved in learning and employment within the community. The service works with people who face barriers to education and employment such as Autism, as well as learning or physical disabilities, and those with low skills or mental health conditions.


The club has also provided access for local charities, including Watford Mencap, who have attended evening matches in the Sensory Room with their service users and Anna Kennedy Online, who have held three family fun days at the stadium, which provided an opportunity for autistic children, with their parents and carers, to explore the ground at their own pace and in a quieter environment.


During the day, the group met Junior Hornets patron Ann Swanson and the tour ended in the dressing room, where the group were surprised with an appearance of men’s first-team players Tom Ince, Edo Kayembe and Jack Grieves.


“Many of the youngsters that came expressed their desire to come back to the ground for a real game and this is exactly what it’s all about,” said Jo Wiggins from Anna Kennedy Online. “We had so many lovely messages thanking us for a wonderful day; it makes it all worthwhile. We hope to do another one soon as this proved so popular that we now have a waiting list for the next one.”


“Making provision for those living with Autism is something that fits well with our history of pioneering facilities for families at Vicarage Road,” said Dave Messenger, the club’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead.


“The support from our community partners and staff, not to mention the families who’ve used the Sensory Room, has been a huge part of this success and we’re incredibly proud of everything we’ve achieved and to have made our stadium and workplaces Autism friendly.”


To enquire about spaces in the Sensory Room for matches, to book a pair of ear defenders or discuss other matchday requirements relating to autism spectrum disorder, please email or call our Supporter Services team on 01923 223023.

Flying High For Autism Acceptance – Fundraiser


Aston: I first met Anna and the team in 2015 when I performed at autisms got talent. From meeting the team I was made to feel welcome and included. I have struggled with my mental health and was becoming accepting of my autism and poor health. I was running events called autistic and proud when Anna asked me to become an ambassador. From then on I have never looked back and I want to raise more acceptance and help the charity as much as I can. This jump is to show everyone that despite my health conditions and despite my autism I can show the world what I can do. My name is Aston Avery I am autistic and doing this jump makes me very proud!

Please get behind us and show the world what we can do!

Lisa: I am doing this sky dive because the charity sponsored events I’ve completed so far are always walking related. I’ve always wanted to jump out of an aeroplane and do a huge challenge for myself so bring it on. AKO is very important to me as a charity. Since meeting Anna, working with the charity and learning about Autism it now holds a very special place in my heart ❤️ the events we put on, the children and adults we meet along the way and the friendships that are formed within our AKO family is just heartwarming.

The awareness and acceptance that still needs to be shared is vital for everyone with Autism and their friends and family. I’m jumping to scream out the message loud and clear.. Autism acceptance and awareness is key!

Steven: I first met Anna and the team back in 2014 when I judged “Wear if for Autism “ I thought I was helping a charity as I had many a time . Little did I know it changed my life and introduced me to a new family that welcome me. It was so fortunate to be asked to be one of their patrons.

I have never looked back and I want to acceptance and help work with the charity as To make a difference This jump is to show everyone that even at my youthful age of 63 and my fear of heights it can be done if you put your mind it My name is Steven Smith and I’m doing this jump to raise funds and make a difference

Please get behind us and show the world what we can do!


Please donate at

I finally received a response after chasing No.10 three times.


Petition update
Who will look after our children when we are no longer around?


Response from Dept Health and Social Care .


4 Apr 2024

Dear All Signatories,


I finally received a response below after delivering over 17k signatures and a letter to No 10 in December.


Our ref: DE-1487241


Dear Dr Kennedy,
Thank you for your correspondence of 14 December about funding and support for adults with autism.
I have been asked to reply.
I appreciate the concerns you have raised, and for highlighting the Autism Alliance report into social care services for autistic adults. These will act as useful contributions to support and inform a range of our work across the Department, including the development of the autism statutory guidance, the Building the Right Support programme, and adult social care reforms.


I would like to reassure you that the Department is working to ensure that autistic people have the right support in place to lead ordinary lives in their communities. The Department’s national autism strategy, published in July 2021, acknowledges the importance of autistic people being able to access community support, including social care, and that this should be available at the right time and tailored to their needs.


This Government is fully committed to the 10-year vision for adult social care set out in the People at the Heart of Care white paper. The Department want to ensure that everyone, including autistic people, can access high quality care that enables choice, control and independence. The Department wants care to be outstanding quality, personalised and accessible.


It is the responsibility of local authorities to assess individuals’ care and support needs, and, where eligible, for meeting those needs. To support local authorities, the Government has made available up to £8.1 billion over this financial year and next to support adult social care and discharge. This includes up to £3.2 billion of additional funding over 2023/24 and up to £4.9 billion in 2024/25. This funding will enable local authorities to buy more care packages, help people leave hospital on time,
improve workforce recruitment and retention, and reduce waiting times for care. In addition, in March 2023 the Department provided £27m of targeted funding to digitise and streamline local authority assessments to better manage waiting lists and support individuals to access the right care at the
right time.

The Department is also taking action to review how local authorities are meeting their Care Act duties. A new duty on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to assess local authorities’ delivery of their Care Act 2014 duties went live on 1 April 2023 and the formal assessment period has started. The CQC will examine how well local authorities deliver their Care Act duties, including those that apply to autistic people. This will increase transparency and accountability and – most importantly – drive improved
outcomes for people who draw on care and support, including autistic people.


In regard to your point about autistic people in inpatient units, the Department is determined to reduce
the number of autistic people in mental health hospitals by supporting people to live well in their communities. In July 2022, the Department published the Building the Right Support (BtRS) Action Plan, which sets out cross-Government actions in the short and longer-term to reduce reliance on mental health inpatient care for autistic people and people with a learning disability.

Implementation of this Plan is being overseen by the Building the Right Support Delivery Board, which includes representatives from across Government and public services who are working together to drive progress, identifying new actions and mitigations as appropriate.


The Department is working on the development of updated autism statutory guidance, which will support the NHS and local authorities to deliver improved outcomes for autistic people. This will
include setting out what local authorities must be doing to meet their Care Act duties for autistic people. The Department is also engaging with national autism charities including members of the Autism Alliance to support development of the updated guidance.


I hope this reply is helpful.

Yours sincerely,
I Matthews


Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries


Department of Health and Social Care

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