Established in 2015, the Autism Life Centres (ALC) provide young people and adults with autism with essential support and care across the Rhondda. The specialised day centre in Tonypandy enables young adults with autism to work together and develop social and communication skills, that they otherwise may not experience.
Founder Amanda Evans, who has a son with autism, struggled to find support for her son once he had left school. Like other parents, she wanted him to remain in the local community but also receive the care he needed and allow him to develop the skills to be independent.
ALC Executive Director, Sian Nash, explains that: “There was nowhere for children with additional needs to go that was close to home. Many families aren’t ready for their children to leave home, but there was no specialised support around here. Having a base here was essential.”
This is how the Autism Life Centres were created.
Trivallis has had a long-standing partnership with the centre, dating back to 2018, where a Time For Change day was organised to transform the Dan Murphy Centre in Tonypandy, which was to be the hub of ALC.
Time for Change is an initiative run by Trivallis, where volunteers give up their time and skills to make real changes to the lives of people across RCT communities. Staff members and local trades worked tirelessly to breathe new life into the building and create a safe haven for those who needed the service.
Sian said: “When we first had the building, it was in a terrible state. Trying to get funding and working with the individuals at the same time was really difficult. The help we received was invaluable, and we couldn’t have done this without the support as we just didn’t have the numbers to do it ourselves.”
After several months of hard work, the centre was finished. Complete with a sensory room and fully functional kitchen, it now provides regular vital support for 13 individuals with specific needs.
ALC’s partnership with Trivallis does not end there. In 2020, RCT Council established a Food Support Fund to provide resources and assistance to food support projects throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf. Projects are able to apply for a grant from the Food Support Fund to help cover the costs of food and the services needed to support food provision for residents.
In October 2020, RCT Council were initially given £10,000 of funding by the Welsh Procurement Alliance (WPA) to support large local foodbanks, though it was soon realised that there were many smaller community groups who were providing key food support across RCT. An easy application process was opened, and all known food providers were alerted to the availability of the grant. The grants were valued at £500 and could be applied for up to three times.
Trivallis were keen to back the RCT Food Support Fund and applied for an additional £10,000 from the Welsh Procurement Alliance Community Benefit Fund to match the funding previously. The application was successful and the amount available to use by the council was doubled to £20,000.
The funding of food banks began in December 2020, and so far, 20 Community Groups have accessed the Food Support Fund. The grants that have been received by local groups has been vital in ensuring food security among residents and helped to reduce the isolation that many people felt during the hardest times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Back in November 2021, Trivallis applied for a second grant to sustain the project, and was awarded with a further £10,000 to yet again match that by the council, bringing the total investment into the Food Support Fund to £40,000.
Dean Emson, Senior Community Development Officer at RCT Council explains: “The Food Support Fund is primarily about food poverty and offering support to those who are struggling. But it is also about using food as a tool to bring people together.”
ALC applied for a grant of £500 from the Food Support Fund with the intention of using the money to purchase vital equipment to allow centre attendees to regularly cook. The application was successful, and equipment was sourced to allow the young people to attend weekly cooking sessions at the centre.
Sian said: “We don’t want to put more costs on parents, so the grants we receive are so helpful in allowing people to access events. They come up once a week to cook, and we give them 1-to-1 support to help them cook their own lunches. Some of the funding has helped to buy the equipment they use weekly.”
The joy this brings the young people is clear, with infectious smiles and happy faces obvious while cooking with staff in the kitchen.
To find out more information on the food fund, head to RCT Food Support Fund