West Norfolk Autism Group is ready to welcome new members. From left, Jo Vertigan, Simon Meerwald, Thomas Sutcliffe, Lesley Bambridge, Karan McKerrow, James Wild MP and Emma Palmer. Picture: Ian Burt

A new charity has been set up to provide activities and support to autistic people and their families.

West Norfolk Autistic Group (WNAG) was launched at King’s Lynn’s Alive Corn Exchange on Friday, which coincided with last week’s Autism Acceptance Week.

North West Norfolk MP James Wild and borough Deputy Mayor Lesley Bambridge, West Norfolk Council’s disability champion, joined the new group and some of its supporters at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Treasurer Karan McKerrow said: “A group of us have been supporting autistic people in West Norfolk for many years now. It became very clear to us during the pandemic lockdowns just how vital supporting autistic people on the frontline really is.

“We were extremely busy during lockdown both online and dropping off activity packs, sensory kits, personalised face masks and creating competitions to keep people active, engaged and interacting with one another.

“Autistic people often experience social isolation due to communication issues and environments which are not autism friendly. This was exacerbated during the last two years where everyone became socially disconnected. 

“We thought long and hard about local support and decided the best option was to set up a local charity group for autistic people, which concentrates on providing activities within our own community.

“Over the years, we have built up strong relationships within our local community who have and continue to support us in many ways. We will continue working with local people to help our autistic members.” 

The group aims to provide lots of trips and activities for its members including swimming, soft play, skating, trampolining, gymnastics, adults’ meals, cinema and much more. 

Karan said: “We will be booking venues exclusively for our autistic members and their siblings as we have done for many years. 

“This way, our members can relax amongst friends in a friendly and accepting environment, with people who totally understand the barriers they face. 

“Encouraging and facilitating physical activity and improving  mental health are at the heart of what we currently do and will be doing.” 

The group is run by unpaid volunteers who are either the parents or carers of autistic people, or are autistic themselves (or both). WNAG is a not-for-profit organisation which relies on grants, fundraisers and donations from people to help provide activities and support.

To make a donation, the charity’s Nat West bank account is West Norfolk Autism Group (WNAG), sort code 53-61-15, account number 62655655. 

Karan added: “Every penny will go towards providing the activities we do. For many families this is the only way they can all be together and enjoy an activity out.”

Membership is free and is available to those with a diagnosis of autism or who are very close to the end of the diagnostic pathway process. 

For more information and to enquire about membership go to www.westnorfolkautismgroup.org.uk or contact hello@westnorfolkautismgroup.org.uk