Borough wins top honours for being autism-friendly

The Face of Wigan wrapped in purple for Autism Friends last summer
The Face of Wigan wrapped in purple for Autism Friends last summer

An ambitious and innovative approach to place people with autism at the heart of Wigan communities has won a top honour.

The borough’s Adults Autism Partnership Board is celebrating the Outstanding Adults Service prize at the National Autistic Society’s Autism Professional Awards.

A creative and powerful movement for change has been developed locally, driven by the partnership board, which bosses say demonstrate a genuine focus on capturing the gifts and talents of people with autism and making sure they are involved in decision-making.

The awards recognise people, services and schools across the UK who are making a difference to autistic people and their families.

To date more than 4,000 people have taken part in a unique one-hour awareness session that helps people to learn more about autism. The session includes a number of fun and interactive exercises and all attendees are invited to pledge to do something positive to help make Wigan a more autism-friendly place.

The sessions are co-produced and co-delivered by people with autism.

Virtual tours of key public buildings including shopping centres, leisure centres and schools, reducing anxiety for people with autism and creating opportunities, have also been created.

The borough also encouraged businesses to take part in the Autism Hour by doing things such as turning down the music or dimming the lights for 60 minutes.

This approach underpins Wigan’s ambition to become one of the first autism-friendly towns in the UK.

The Autism Partnership Board is driven by people with autism and includes representatives from Wigan Council, CCG, North West Boroughs Partnership, Bridgewater, GMP and Fire Service, local charities and community groups.

The work is all part of efforts by Wigan Council to make people more aware of autism and provide a variety of ways to let people with autism play a vital role in their community.

Coun Keith Cunliffe, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “We are absolutely delighted to win this award and a huge thank you must go to our partners, businesses, autism friend champions and autism friends for making it happen.

The autism partnership board is driven by people with autism with lived experience and those who care for them. All of them are really passionate to raise awareness about autism and how they can be best supported.”