Autism Champion in broadcast that offered real experience

Jerry Fitzpatrick, second right, at the Women’s Radio Station studios with, from left, Anna Kennedy, Arun Thapar, Pamela Edwards from Baston House School, and Mala Thapar

Jerry Fitzpatrick, the Addiscombe West councillor who is the borough’s Autism Champion, was this week interviewed on the Women’s Radio Station by Anna Kennedy.

Kennedy is the founder of Anna Kennedy Online, an autism charity, and helping with the radio programme’s production on the day was Arun Thapar, a Croydon teen who is doing work experience at the charity, where his mother, Mala, works.

The programme can be heard each day at 1pm (until Monday) on the

On the programme, Fitzpatrick discussed his role, and how Healthwatch Croydon is now involved and his Hear Autism initiative.

It has been reported this week that there is a massive funding gap across the country for local authorities handling Education Health Care Plans.

The national teachers’ union says that the number of children and young people with EHCPs has risen by one-third since 2015, while local authorities’ budgets have been cut under Government austerity measures.

This squeeze  has put children and families’ services from councils “at absolute breaking point”, according to the chief executive of Children England.

In a report for the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee this week, MPs said that current funding levels for children’s services, including SEND and the provision of EHCPs, were unsustainable and needed a £3.1billion minimum funding boost by 2025.

“There is simply no getting away from the fact that austerity policies are leaving thousands of children and families and many essential local services at absolute breaking point,” said Kathy Evans, CEO of Children England.

It was against this background that Fitzpatrick discussed with Kennedy his concerns on EHCPs and how health services need to work together and raise awareness of autism within Croydon.

“I have the exciting task of trying to make things better for those of our 400,000 residents who are autistic,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Between 4,000 to 6,000 Croydon residents are on the spectrum.

“One of the great parts of my job is meeting wonderful young people like Arun. He was able to teach me a lot about contemporary music, and particularly about Calvin Harris. Dr Kennedy was fortunate enough to have the assistance of Arun to interview me. They asked me some interesting questions. Good luck to Arun and good luck to Dr Kennedy, who does so much good work to ensure that the talents of autistic people can bloom and grow.”

The radio broadcast provided a valuable experience for Arun Thapar, too, who said it “made me feel confident”.

He said: “I really enjoyed my work experience with Anna Kennedy Online and learnt so much about websites, podcasts and thoroughly enjoyed meeting Jerry and asking him questions on live radio and gained so much from this involvement.”

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