Down syndrome woman posing for photo by leaning over a bannister of a walkway

Why do we have the Community Fund?

As a not-for-profit, Discovery reinvests 33% of any surplus we make into organisations across Somerset to support the health and independence of autistic adults and people with learning disabilities.

These funds make up the Discovery Community Fund, which is managed by Somerset Community Foundation.

Last year we commissioned the Somerset Parent Carer Forum and Autism Somerset to find out more about how autistic adults and people with learning disabilities feel as we emerge from the pandemic, which is now shaping how we use our Fund.

Here’s some of what we found:

Covid restrictions worsened isolation for many:

“It is essential for me to have face-to-face or in-person support. The reliance on meeting people online has affected my mental health negatively and I don’t find it very useful.”

– Community Fund respondent

There is significant need for:

1. Support, inclusivity and accessibility

Businesses and public places often aren’t made with people with additional needs in mind, creating mental and physical barriers when people try to connect with their community. From transport to street signs, to employment, social activities, and education:

“If a young person is doing well e.g., in college then often the support is withdrawn, and they struggle.”

– Community Fund respondent

“Better education for people with learning disabilities is needed. Many people can’t read because they haven’t had appropriate education. When they are older people assume they can’t read (or can’t do other things) because they have a learning disability – that is often not the reason. Not every difficulty/problem I have comes from my learning disability – but everyone assumes that’s the reason.”

– Community Fund respondent

2. Choice

Community Fund Report Statistic 30% of people feel they can choose where they go out

“The public can be afraid, prejudiced, patronising or even abusive when people with learning disabilities access public groups or leisure activities. It’s horrible but true. We should be able to go to choirs, painting classes, yoga groups, etc., that are for the public (not merely the narrow range of clubs set up specifically for people with LD). Segregation is bad.”

– Community Fund respondent

Only 30% of respondents to the Somerset Community Fund Report said they feel they can choose where they go out:

3. Wellbeing Support
There is a lack of organisations to talk to about gender, sexuality, mental health and wellbeing. In fact, being autistic or having a learning disability presents barriers in accessing mental health services.

“There are high levels of anxiety and depression and there is nowhere for people to go. When they seek help, they are shunned because they have a diagnosis and sent packing.”

– A support worker

4. Equality
In the UK, people have the freedom to talk about their beliefs and values. However, less than half of Somerset’s residents in the Community Fund Report say they feel able to do this and only 4% have been supported by an advocacy service.

“I don’t have any help. It’s too expensive and difficult to talk to strangers/agency staff, it’s time consuming and the hourly fee is expensive.”

– Community Fund respondent

The biggest risk to mental health, quality and length of life is loneliness.

Research into national trends in social care state that demand is increasing but receipt of long-term care is falling.

“From 2015/16 to 2019/20, 120,000 more people requested social care support but around 14,000 fewer people received either long- or short-term support”

– Bottery and Ward, 2021

National and local trends show that the demand for care will continue to grow over the coming years.

In one case, a local micro-provider supporting a 30-year-old autistic lady with learning disabilities reported how she could no longer attend a group due to her age.

The lady received a care package, and her family also contribute to her having the care she needs, so when the group was no longer available, the social worker visited to review the package and help find an alternative. After two visits, the social worker ‘gave up’, and the care package eventually ceased. The lady no longer has support and can no longer mix with others.

Discovery’s Community Fund is here to help your organisation or community become autism and learning disability friendly.

Everything you are reading is from the detailed findings of The Community Fund Report which you can access here.

Support needs are identified (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Someone to talk to about anxieties
  2. Support with travel
  3. Support to socialise

We provide grants for a wide range of well planned projects that will make life better for people.

We fund:

• Autistic adults or people with learning disabilities living in Somerset that have an idea they want to realise.

• An organisation based in Somerset that wants to become more autism and learning disability friendly.

It does not matter who or what type of organisation you are.

If you exist to support your community and are enthusiastic about helping autistic adults and people with learning disabilities in Somerset to get more from life, the fund can help you.

We can fund adaptations, training, and any other necessities so you can make a difference by being truly accessible to your whole community.

Find out more about The Discovery Community Fund here.