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Healthwatch gets people talking about Asperger syndrome

21/02/2014

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

Healthwatch gets people talking about Asperger syndrome

Healthwatch Southend held their second public event on Tuesday 18 February 2014 to give people with Asperger syndrome, and their families and friends, the chance to have their voices heard by key decision makers in health and social care. 70 people attended the event, showing that people in Southend have some serious concerns about what is available for people with this often misunderstood form of autism.

The event included very informative presentations given by representatives of Supporting Asperger Families in Essex (SAFE) and National Autistic Society (NAS). The presentations sparked much debate about the difficulties people face getting a diagnosis of the condition, and the shortage of support services available to help people with Asperger syndrome lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a 'spectrum disorder' because the condition affects people in many different ways and to varying degrees. People with Asperger syndrome are often excluded from funding and services that are available to people with other forms of autism because they tend to have high IQs. Yet they can lack the most basic understanding of social situations, communication and emotion that most of us take for granted, and this makes the world a confusing and frightening place to be.

People with Asperger syndrome often suffer severe bullying at school, and are all too often abused or taken advantage of throughout their lives because of their differences and vulnerability. In many cases this leads to depression, other mental illnesses, and even suicide.

Representatives of Southend Borough Council, Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (SEPT) and Southend Hospital were on hand to listen to the presentations and hear people's views. They then joined a panel, similar to what we see on the BBC's Question Time programme, to answer questions from the floor about what is available and any plans for future Asperger specific services.

Jonathan Keay, Healthwatch Southend manager, said: "I was amazed at the response we had to this event. I had thought our event last month on dementia would draw more interest than this one, but we were inundated with people interested in attending to find out more about Asperger syndrome and have their voices heard.

"What I found most gratifying was that our council and all our NHS organisations supported the event by sending key decision makers to participate. They proved to us and everyone present that they are willing and eager to find out what people think, and to work with Healthwatch Southend to make those voices a genuine and important part of the decisions they make."

A report on the Asperger event will be published in the coming weeks. If you would like to see the report and receive regular information about the work of your local Healthwatch, you can become a Healthwatch Southend supporter by calling 01702 220104 or by emailing info@healthwatchsouthend.co.uk.

A report on Healthwatch Southend's earlier dementia event in January is available now by visiting www.healthwatchsouthend.co.uk or by clicking here.

ENDS

Notes to editors

About Healthwatch Southend

Healthwatch Southend is the new, independent consumer champion for health and social care in Southend on Sea. The organisation will help to shape and improve local health and social care in our community. Healthwatch Southend is part of the Healthwatch national network, established by the Government to ensure local patients and users have a greater input to shaping local services.

Healthwatch Southend is part of Southend Association of Voluntary Services (SAVS). SAVS is delivering the service in collaboration with Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the advocacy organisation BATIAS.

About Healthwatch England

Healthwatch England is the new, independent consumer champion for health and social care in England. The organisation has independent statutory powers, as stated in the Health and Social Care Act 2012, to ensure the consumer's voice is heard and best practice is delivered in health and social care nationally. Healthwatch is also focused on providing leadership, guidance and support to the development of the Healthwatch network.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Keay
Healthwatch Southend manager
Tel: 01702 220104
Email: jkeay@healthwatchsouthend.co.uk

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