Inspiring Finchley project up for National Autism Award

‘Taking Steps to be the best you can be’

A Finchley social enterprise promoting the life skills and independence of young autistic people has been shortlisted for the National Autistic Society's (NAS) prestigious Autism Professionals Awards.

Footprints Life Camp, based at The Holmewood School London in Finchley, is one of two finalists in the Award for Most Creative Community Project. They were shortlisted by an independent panel of 10 autism experts who judged them on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.

Founded just a year ago by Naj D’Silva, an outstanding senior teacher at The Holmewood School in London (Ofsted 2015) Footprints Life Camp has been working to increase the independence of young autistic people through the combination of farming, outdoor education and life-skills. The camp, which runs during the school holidays, also offers paid internships to young people on the autism spectrum. With a recent NAS survey suggesting that just 16% of autistic people are in full time paid work, projects like this are vital to breaking down barriers to employment. Social impact has been significant with 100% of young people who attended the camps and their parents believing Footprints Life Camp increased self-esteem, independence and social skills in 2016.

The annual Autism Professionals Awards, which are sponsored by Axcis Education Recruitment, were launched in 2013 to recognise and promote finchley projectgood autism practice and inspire others to improve their own work. There are 14 awards, covering education, health, social care, employment, community projects and volunteering. The winners will be announced at a special ceremony at the NAS' Professional conference in Harrogate on 7 March 2017.

Founder and Director of Footprints Life Camp, Naj D'Silva, said: “We are honoured to have been shortlisted in the Autism Professionals Awards 2017. Our aim, over the past year, has been to give young autistic people the opportunity to be the best they can be by reducing social exclusion and increasing independence. We are able to deliver this through highly specialised staff and a key focus on developing social skills and key independent  life-skills.  Our goal is to have 50% of our staff team made up of young people on the autistic spectrum in the next 5 years.”

Lisa Camilleri, Head Teacher of The Holmewood School, said, “I am delighted that the work of Footprints Life Camp has been recognised through the Autism Professionals Awards.  The service is exciting, fun and highly praised by students and families across London.  The internships on offer provide an excellent foundation for teaching Holmewood’s 16-19 year olds about the world of work and how to be an integral part of our local community."

Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said: “We run the Autism Professionals Awards each year to celebrate the people, projects and organisations making a difference to the lives of autistic people and their families in the UK.

“The standard of nominations is always very high so Footprints Life Camp should be commended for impressing the judges and being shortlisted.

“Autism can have a profound effect on individuals and families but the right support from passionate and caring people and organisations can make all the difference. It’s important that we recognise the amazing people who provide this support so we can share best practice and inspire others.”

To find out more information about the awards please visit www.autismprofessionalsawards.org.uk.

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February 2, 2017

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