Service for Norfolk children saved thanks to new funding

A specialist service for hundreds of children run by a Norwich-based charity which cares for people with autism has been saved thanks to funding from Children in Need.

Twenty jobs have also been saved at Asperger East Anglia (AEA), whose ability to provide children's activity groups as well as respite services for distressed parents through its children and family social group was under threat after a shake-up in health and social services earlier this year.

The charity's boss made a heartfelt plea for funding to prevent the closure of the service in the Evening News in May, and Thecla Fellas, the charity's children/families and youth service manager, said they were all over the moon after surviving a difficult six months.

She said: 'Since March we have worked tirelessly to change the threat of closure and are now delighted to announce that funding from Children in Need of �85,125 to support our children's groups and money received through appeals made by Felton Fundraising (a Norfolk-based charity fundraising consultancy) have secured the future of the service for the next three years.

'If we had not received the funding it would have meant 200 children and their families losing a valuable service and 20 staff losing their jobs.'

Earlier this year, Norfolk County Council cut funding to groups caring for some of the county's most vulnerable youngsters from �2.4m to �1m as part of a budget package aimed at closing a possible funding black hole in the next three years. The cuts meant AEA, based at the Charing Cross Centre, St John Maddermarket, lost �40,000 a year.

But the new funding means it has been able to expand and reach out to more children across East Anglia by opening up children and family groups in Suffolk as well as Norfolk.

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Ms Fellas said: 'In the New Year we will be reaching out to help children affected by Asperger syndrome in Lowestoft, which is an area we have identified as needing a service.

'We intend to offer children and family social groups assistance with educational difficulties and parent support in the Lowestoft area.

'Groups will also be situated in Great Yarmouth, Norwich, Diss and Fakenham. The groups will run throughout the year fortnightly on Saturday mornings.

'All other services and support offered by Asperger East Anglia can be found on our website'