A Sutton mother who channelled her anger and frustrations over the way her autistic child and family were being ignored and ill-served by the local council has been named “Most Inspirational Volunteer” at the National Autistic Society’s Autism Professionals Awards.
Hayley Harding set up the Sutton EHCP Crisis Group to help families in the borough who were being failed by the local authority, with hundreds of children being denied essential education and health care plans, and the services that they would provide, as the council sought to reduce its expenditure.
In a ceremony at Birmingham Town Hall, Harding was presented with her award by the evening’s hosts, Jane Asher, the actor and writer who is president of the NAS, and Carly Jones, the autism advocate and presenter.
Harding’s was one of 13 award-winners announced during the evening. She had been shortlisted by an independent panel of autism specialists , who were looking for high standards of innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.
By celebrating such achievements, the National Autistic Society hopes to increase public understanding of autism and inspire other people and organisations to make a difference, too. There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in Britain.
Harding said: “I’m delighted to win this award.
“I started the Sutton EHCP Crisis Campaign following the struggle my husband and I had trying to get my son (who is autistic and has physical needs) the educational help he needed from Sutton. Sadly, this struggle is continuing for families in the borough, leaving children unable to learn and being faced with entering unsuitable environments that are having a detrimental effect on their long-term mental health.
“An access to education is a right, not a privilege, and our borough’s vulnerable SEND children deserve better right now.”
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