The Kent Autistic Trust

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Kent Autistic Trust is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Highlighting best practice
CEO Christine Edwards-Daem
The three outstanding
managers and board members
Kent Autistic Trust works across the county, specifically
assisting people on the autistic spectrum, including
individuals who are the hardest to reach. Eschewing
an institutionalised setting, they aim to provide care in the
community and ensure that all the people they serve are able
to lead fulfilling lives in ordinary settings. The trust places
significant emphasis on retaining, empowering and promoting
staff – a potential solution for the recruitment issues that are
currently affecting the care sector. CEO Christine Edwards-
Daem explains the genesis of the charity and how they hope
to collaborate more with local authorities so that people on
the spectrum can benefit from the trust’s specialist approach
The charity
was established in 1989 by a group of parents who found that there
was a lack of support for people on the autistic spectrum after they left school.
To try to remedy this, they decided to start a service for school leavers with
specific needs and challenges related to autism. There was no provision outside
an institutionalised setting, and we have always aimed to provide support within
the community. Many of the parents are still board members, and there is a strong
focus on our original aim of helping people to lead ordinary but fulfilling lives. This
allows individuals who would usually be confined to more restrictive settings to
receive support in community environments.
We provide supported living, residential care, day services and outreach and
respite provisions, alongside a family support group. This group provides
information and assistance to families with an autistic family member, especially
»CEO: Christine Edwards-Daem
»Established in 1989
»Based in Medway, but covers
all of Kent
»Services: A variety of care
services for people with autism
»No. of employees: 250
»No. of users: 100
»Christine Edwards-Daem
is Executive Director of the
Autism Alliance and the Kent
Integrated Care Alliance
The Kent Autistic Trust
those who do not qualify for
funding. We endeavour to go out
into communities across Kent,
and our family support group now
contacts over 5,000 people a year.
This more general service expands
on the assistance we provide to
100 more intensive cases and acts
as a less formal equivalent to our
A focus on quality while
retaining and supporting staff
Our ethos is grounded in a focus
on those we serve. The trust is in an
enviable position to have achieved
three “outstanding” CQC ratings from
our eight registered settings. The focus
on ensuring that people have fulfilling
lives turns out to be a powerful lever
for retaining staff. People want to
work in a setting where they can make
a difference and where they know
that senior management and the
board truly care about the work they
do and the people they support. This
invisible but tangible golden thread
runs throughout the organisation
and is what pulls us together,
blessing us with an amazing and
We are proud that our staff turnover
is well below the national average,
despite us being subjected to the
same challenges as our competitors
in the sector. We have been able to
contest and argue against fee cuts,
aggressive commissioning and ill-
thought-out care packages. This has
enabled us to continue to provide
quality and to steer away from cutting
corners and reducing opportunities.
This has positively impacted the lives
of the people we support because it
promotes continuity of support, the
retention of valuable information and
intelligence, and many other positive
feelings that a trust relationship
brings. This has a powerful effect on
the working conditions and level of
job satisfaction that our staff enjoy,
improving retention levels.
Staff don’t move to a competitor or
to work at a supermarket because
of wages. Staff leave because of
job dissatisfaction and problematic
relationships at work. If you address
the latter and ensure that staff can
keep making a difference and are
supported to have good connections at
work, you will tend to keep them.
We have 16 establishments across
Kent. In two weeks, the senior
management team and I will be visiting
each of these and meeting everyone
who works there. By meeting the
frontline members of our organisation,
we hope to gain a better picture of
what works and what doesn’t. We
aim to promote the input of all our
employees, shaping our approaches
and strategic focus. I have had
experience on the front line, having
begun working for our service as a
senior casual care worker 25 years ago.
It is essential that all of our employees
feel that they are part of our decision-
making process.
We also encourage staff to be
ambitious to improve the lives of others,
and this includes their colleagues.
Instilling this communal spirit in our
staff has been very effective, and this
investment is reflected in the way our
staff perform their roles. Our best ideas get
debated so the entire
charity benefits
We are proud
that our staff
turnover is well
below the
national average,
despite us being
subjected to the
same challenges
as our
competitors in
the sector
Highlighting best practice
The need to collaborate
with local authorities and
intelligent commissioning
Shrinking budgets and an increased
demand for support are a disastrous
combination and have caused
commissioning styles to lack insight,
focusing instead on cuts and quick
savings. This fails to take into account
the true costs of a person’s support
with their unique requirements.
These shortcuts are often resulting in
more expensive interventions in the
Post-Winterbourne, the government
pledged to reduce inpatient numbers
by 30-50 per cent, but the latest
figures show that numbers have hardly
been reduced and that the number of
children in units has almost doubled.
This illustrates the issue with failing to
invest properly in community services
and support. Ironically, the right
support in the community is often
cheaper than the wrong support in
The good news is that some local
authorities have seen the financial
benefits of intelligent commissioning.
Commissioning styles should be
more focused on achieving the safety
and wellbeing of a person, allowing
sensible discussion and allowing
mutual professional respect to come
to a suitable and cost-effective
arrangement. Several local authorities
have realised that the strict and stifling
rules and contractual elements have
destroyed innovation, creativity and
a logical approach. We are looking
forward to more creative and dynamic
engagement with commissioners so
that we can keep making a difference
to people on the autistic spectrum and
prevent hospital admissions. I hope
that Theresa May’s pronouncement
that austerity has ended comes to
fruition, but it is impossible to know
how things will pan out.
Looking forward, we do not anticipate
major expansion, as this would likely
lead to a compromise in the quality
of our service. Instead, we will be
responding to demand and will assist
the hardest to reach people in our
community. Our focus will also remain
on our outstanding workforce; in
doing so, we are confident that we will
continue to thrive and prosper.
styles should be
more focused
on achieving
thesafety and
wellbeing of a
person, allowing
discussion and
allowing mutual
respect to come
to a suitable and
Outstanding team at
one of the registered
homes joined by CEO,
Head of Care and
Positive Behavioural
Support Manager

This article was sponsored by The Kent Autistic Trust. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.