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Learning Disabilities
Mental Health Division
Residential Services
New Developments
Essex and Cambridgeshire


Autism index

Dianne Oberheim - Divisional Director � Autism

I have worked in the field of autistic spectrum disorders for seven years now, since leaving University (I was a �mature� student!) I worked for a little over six years for the Kent Autistic Trust.

I started at the Kent Autistic Trust doing a time-limited piece of research for them (funded by Kent Social Services), looking at the support needs of adults and children with autism (and their carers). I met a lot of people through doing this piece of work, and learned a lot in a short time. One of the main things recognised through this research was that families would benefit from the employment of a Family Services Officer: a co-ordinator that would inform and support. I had come to the end of my time limit on research, but was offered the post of Family Services Officer.

Through this work I met hundreds of families and carers, and learned a great deal through things like organising support groups and being involved in local fora. KAT then offered me the opportunity to become registered as a Residential Home Manager and to co-ordinate the Behavioural Support work at the Trust.

After a while, I took on Behavioural Support full time, and was later offered the post of Residential Services Manager, responsible for 5 residential homes. This post was then altered to provide for Areas rather than Services, so I took on the post of Area Manager for Ashford and Swale. I then had responsibility for 3 residential homes and a day service.

In September 2001, I was successful in my application to join PentaHact, and to take charge of the Autism Division. My short-term aim is to ensure that the service currently being offered provides the best quality of life possible for our service-users. In the medium term, working the Division�s managers, I intend to see our service become a service of excellence. I would like to see it offering a spectrum of provision to meet the spectrum of need. To that end I envisage PentaHact�s Autism Division offering more individualised services, including Supported Living and Outreach.

The Autism Division provides an autism-specific service and currently have five registered residential homes. There are three in Hertfordshire: Smug Oak House (providing a home for 10 service users in 2 units), Ridgmont (for 6 service users) and Nicholas House (also for 6 service users). There are two registered residential homes in London: Duchess Close in Friern Barnet (for 6 service users) and Handsworth Avenue in Waltham Forest (also for 6 service users).

In addition, there is a Resource Centre in Bricket Wood, called the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Centre. This centre currently provides day opportunities for our Hertfordshire based service users, and for 3 service users who attend on a day-only basis. Nicholas House also has a small resource centre on-site, but is currently under-utilised. Plans are in development to re-launch PentaHact�s Autism Division�s Day Services, to provide separate staff that will resource a person-centred and autism-specific service.

The Autism Division is fortunate in having a Behaviour Support Team. The Team works right across PentaHact, but is currently building up their expertise in the field of autism and challenging behaviour. The Autism Division is also benefiting in return. In the near future this should mean that we should have developed positive plans for each of our service users. The team carry out assessments on prospective clients, and they also provide training. The team already provide services to other organisations, and it is envisaged that this element of their work may increase.

Residential Services in this division are:

   Smug Oak House

   Duchess Close


   Handsworth Avenue

   Nicholas House

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