Restructuring dents income at National Autistic Society

National Autistic Society Chief executive

Closures and restructuring of services impacted income at the National Autistic Society, its financial report for the year ended 31 March 2018 has said.

Earnings at the group dipped to £96.1m during the period (2017: £97.3m), while expenditure slipped to £95.7m, from £96.7m the year previous. Net income at the charity fell to £486,000, from £720,000.

Income dropped because of planned closures and restructuring of services, as well as a reduction in outreach contracts and ending operations at Mendip House, it said.

In 2016, allegations emerged of abusive behaviour at Mendip House in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. The residential service, which was home to six residents, closed in October that year after whistleblowers contacted the regulator and safeguarding teams.

A safeguarding report last year found residents had been subjected to ‘cruel’ behaviour from staff.

The society’s financial report said: ‘Since then, we have been reviewing what went wrong and putting in place initiatives to fix these problems. We have changed our Quality Assurance Framework, strengthening accountability and responsibility for ensuring that our schools and social care services are of high quality.’

It said it has improved systems and checks around data collection and introduced quality improvement teams in each area.

The group also pulled out of operations where contract conditions did not allow it to ‘deliver services to the quality standard’ that it aspires to.

National Autistic Society Service, which is a trading arm of the charity, delivers most of its welfare and education operations. Funded through fees, turnover rose to £62.8m (2017: £60.4m). It spent £56.7m of the funds on supporting autistic children and adults in schools and services.

The report said pressure from local authorities looking to reduce costs posed ‘a major ongoing challenge for the company.’

Chief executive Mark Lever (pictured) and Dr Carol Homden, chair of trustees, said: ‘We are determined to extend our services wherever possible, despite funding pressures across local authorities and the NHS, but the combination of cuts to support packages and lower than expected fee uplifts has left us with a slightly lower surplus this year.’