We are passionate about providing inspirational activities and opportunities for children and young people with high functioning autism to develop their social, communication and independent living skills, gain confidence and increase their chances of full integration into society. We use sport, drama, visual arts, cooking, music and a whole range of other activities to bring the children & young people together, break down barriers, build confidence, increase their communication skills and enable them to relax and have fun.
All parents want their children to have fun and to experience friendship. At CASPA, children for whom the prospect of social interaction is fearful, anxiety-inducing and to be avoided, we work gently with them to facilitate play and friendship. For parents who are anxious that their child is seen as ‘badly behaved’ or ‘inappropriate’ in other environments, we can assure them that we understand, we have strong behaviour management techniques yet we use rewards as well to celebrate every positive development or achievement and that we will support them as a family in as many ways as we can.
A&Q with Helen Dyer
1. Tell O2e supporters about CASPA?
CASPA is a rapidly growing charity in South London working passionately to support young people their families with Autism and social and communication disabilities. Set up in 2002 by a small group of parents in Bromley we are now a well-regarded professional charity working with over 200 children a week.
We currently work with children and young people ages 0-29yrs.We provide out of school clubs, activities and services which all focus on giving our young people opportunities to increase their social and communication skills, make friends and have fun whilst building skills and accessing what all children have the right to access.
In our social clubs we have dedicated, professional staff delivering a wide range of activities including sports, trampling, cooking, craft, drama, music and much more as well as running a specialist trampling club, science and technology club and holiday activities including residential trips.
Our families are so grateful that finally in CASPA they find a place where their children are accepted, cared for, taught life skills appropriately, enabled to make friends (something many of them have never had before) and supported in so many ways without fear of stigma or judgement.
We also run many other initiatives including family support, pre-employment programmes & schools training programmes. We have such a good reputation for engaging some of the most challenging and vulnerable children and helping them to live more successful lives that we were shortlisted for a National Diversity Award in 2015 and we won YPI Charity of the year. We are very proud of the CASPA Way which is summed up by our values, Compassion, Acceptance, Support, Pride & Aspiration.
2. What are the main challenges the charity faces?
As an independent charity working with a very isolated and sometimes challenging group of young people, we face a number of challenges, mostly all relating to money! Where previously our local authority has supported CASPA by allowing us free use of their youth centres and venues for example, as the savings have bitten they have started charging us rent which means we now have to raise thousands a year extra to cover our venue use.
We have to have high staff ratios in order to engage the children and keep them safe which obviously is a huge cost. We do not receive any funding from the local authority or central government as many of our families are ‘invisible’ as appear to be coping and their children may even attend mainstream schools – despite pressures on the family, mental health etc, so we have to fundraise for every penny we spend.
We have worked very closely with Microsoft who have supported our creation of our admin system which is cloud based, meaning that we have reduced our overheads with no need for a main office / building. We are responsive and ‘light on our feet’ which means when we get funding it can go directly to our delivery services rather than into a slow moving admin machine. We have the capacity, the passion, the knowledge and the amazing people to deliver more than we do, to move into other parts of London and the south east and to run more formalised programmes (for our over 18s for example in terms of work support) but our only sticking point is the longer term, larger scale funding. We continually apply for funding and we have a very successful community fundraising schedule/programme but this fight will never end!!
3. How can the O2e community help?
We are always open to any kind of offer of help, from funding to people-power (volunteers / input from people who could help in any way) and importantly support with marketing/promotion/raising awareness of our work is always valuable.
4. What benefits will there be for the children CASPA supports from the funds donated by O2e?
Wow, well there are SO many ways the children of CASPA will benefit from funds donated by O2e…. Their clubs will continue to run/improve/grow, they will continue to have professionals working with them on all aspects of their development, they can go on more trips, have better equipment, our IT and admin systems will be able to be continually improved upon which benefits everyone, we can provide more specialist training for the staff for example Makaton sign-language training or positive handling training so the delivery is always of high quality and their ’cause’ and issues can be better highlighted and more awareness and tolerance raised locally and on a wider scale.
5. From the perspective of a supported charity, what does O2e look and feel like?
O2e looks like a buzzy, caring, dynamic, beautiful organisation where the people involved are purely doing what they do to improve the lives of others. At the launch event the love and passion in the room were palpable as were the laughter and camaraderie.
O2e also feels like a very professional outfit and it feels as if those involved are happy to use their professional skills and work-qualities to benefit O2e and the people it was set up to serve. The team that visited CASPA were so interested in every element of the work, the young people, they got stuck in, were silly and funny with the kids and basically it feels, much like CASPA does, like a big, committed family. Not to mention the MASSIVE amounts of cash that were raised / are raised by the team, which shows how successful it is – amazing! O2e most definitely changes lives and helps small organisations in very tough times.