We have been commissioned by NHS Sussex to expand our youth engagement service to support more autistic young people with a mental health condition presenting significant risks.

In an extension to our existing youth engagement service for 11-18 year olds, which has been running since 2020, we will now be able to offer support to young people on the autism spectrum (with a diagnosis, or those that are in the process of getting a diagnosis), with a mental health condition and significant risks aged between 18 and 25, who live in East Sussex.

Our engagement service provides one to one support to young people, with support workers visiting them in their homes or in the community at least once a week. Through this regular, consistent contact the team build a relationship and rapport with the young person and support them to engage in their wider community and to feel safe in doing so. The support provided may include help with moving on to further education, finding a job or developing their skills and interests.

Young people in this age bracket will be referred to our team through the East Sussex adult mental health team, with the principle aim of preventing them from needing more extreme measures of help to be put in place, such as being hospitalised.

Samantha Fievez, Aspens’ Regional Area Manager for Sussex and Children’s Services, said: “We are delighted to receive the news that with the support of NHS Sussex we will now be able to support young people up to the age of 25. Making the transition from being a child to a young adult can be a challenging time for young people and being able to provide this support through our youth engagement service will really help to bridge this gap. We’re very much looking forward to starting up the service and provide much-needed support to 18-25 year olds who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health.”

A family who has received support from Aspens’ youth engagement service said: “Aspens has been a lifeline to my family. I honestly would be lost without the support and help they give my son. My son always looks forward to seeing his support worker.”

Another family said: “It has taken a while for my son to build up trust and at first he was reluctant to engage. However, this is slowly changing, and he’s now been out a couple of times with his support worker and is beginning to come up with ideas of things they can do on his support days.”

Dr Amy Dissanayake, Medical Director for West Sussex and Clinical Director for Learning Disabilities and Autism for NHS Sussex said: “This sort of one-to-one support, to build relationships in settings where they feel most comfortable, is so beneficial for young people and much needed. We are really pleased that Aspens are extending their service and look forward to working with them to improve the lives of even more autistic young people in East Sussex.”

We are currently recruiting for Engagement Key Workers and hope to have the extended service in East Sussex up and running in the next few months.

Find out more about our services for children and young people across Sussex here