News – 26 April 2021 In light of Autism Awareness Month, we’d like to reflect on the hard work of our Partnerships team, and celebrate our customers who may need a little extra assistance. Chris Fletcher, Partnerships Coordinator, said, “In the Partnerships team, we help customers from all walks of life, with varying levels of needs. From those who are unable to walk and communicate, to those who can work full-time, but need a little extra assistance in their day-to-day life. We support those with learning difficulties, mental health problems and autism, ensuring they life comfortably and safely in their homes. “We’re on hand to help customers with any extra care they need and liaise with family members and local authorities to ensure their wellbeing is maintained. We regularly visit these customers, once every week or two, to check they are managing okay in their homes. We don’t just focus on housing problems, but on the emotional needs of the individual. “We’re innovative when working with contractors to adapt people’s homes – minimising the risk of those with challenging behaviours. It’s about creatively managing both the individual, and the property; everyone is different, so their homes must be tailored specifically to their needs. It can be a tough job, but one that’s really rewarding.” One of the individuals Grand Union supports is Charles. Charles lives in a self-contained Grand Union flat in Milton Keynes and is one of our many customers with autism. Chris added, “People with autism can present differently, so our Partnerships team members have to be aware of this and adapt their behaviour accordingly – ensuring our customers feel as comfortable as possible. For example, not exaggerating facial expressions or voice tone, not expecting people to make eye contact, and avoiding irony and sarcasm.” Charles moved into his place in October 2019. He said, “I remember attending my needs assessment with my mum. We met with a member of Grand Union’s Partnerships team. I felt so nervous! “Despite my nerves, I was excited too. I was really looking forward to having my own place, having always lived with my parents. “I can’t believe how far I’ve come since that day. Now, two years on from moving in, I’m still really happy in my flat. I’m getting a lot more confident on the phone, which is really useful if I ever need to speak to Grand Union or report a repair. “I’ve always had some kind of part-time job. I worked in a warehouse two days a week and at Arcadia for a couple of years, temporarily. I felt proud and happy to be employed part-time, even if it meant getting up at 6:30am to get the bus into work! “Outside of work, I enjoy building Lego models – an activity that helps me to manage my anxiety, helping me to remain calm. I love listening to music and my favourite genre is dance. When I moved in, I took the advice of Marcus in the Partnerships team, to listen to my tunes through my headphones… which I’m sure my neighbours are relieved about! “A lot has changed since I moved. I’ve had the COVID vaccination and that’s made me feel a bit safer. This year, I’ve enjoyed spending time with my family, who are really caring. I’m also really grateful for the help I’ve received from Grand Union; I’ve been told I’m a delight to support, which makes me happy!” Despite living with autism and having to manage anxiety on a daily basis, Charles is determined to work hard and enjoy his life. He’s thankful for his Grand Union home, and the support he receives from us. Our colleagues in the Partnerships team help people like Charles live in their own place, with independence, and know that what they do matters.