A North Wales charity is giving families living with autism a Chester gift card as a reward

A North Wales charity that supports children and young people with autism has provided families with a community gift from Chester to help support their mental health and wellbeing after the pandemic.

Your Space Marches, which offers a range of services including clubs and activities, as well as training in coping mechanisms, has given families currently accessing their outreach support service a Chester Gift Card from £25 to spend as they wish in the city, with funding from Wrexham Council.

Debbie Moody is assistant manager at Your Space Marches, based in Llay. She said: “We are a small charity with 15 staff, working across Wrexham, Cheshire and North Wales.

“During the pandemic, demand for our services exploded. Everything seemed to disappear overnight and families turned to charities like ours for help. Our outreach team grew to four staff full-time and we’ve moved from face-to-face to online services, offering everything from crafts to Zumba, as well as hands-on support like picking up prescriptions or running errands.

“Children have weathered the pandemic better than adults. There was a lot of pressure on adults, like helping the kids with schoolwork alongside the demands of general family life.

“Coming out of the pandemic has highlighted many mental health issues, and for us as a charity it is important that we support the whole family, including parents and family members who are doing dealing with the daily effects of what is a hidden mess.

Your Space Marches received funding from Wrexham Council for an initiative to support mental health through the Unpaid Caregiver Innovation Fund in April.

Debbie said the charity automatically thought of parents: ‘We have chosen to give families a £25 Chester gift card to remind them that they are doing a fantastic job and to encourage parents to take the time to take care of themselves.

“It also takes away any guilt parents might feel about spending money on themselves. Adults might want to use the gift card to go out to eat. If they do, we can arrange a sit-in service to take care of children so they can have some time off or use the Chester Gift Card as part of a day out with the kids.

“When we were looking at how to distribute this money to families, we wanted a local option so that when families spend the card, the benefit stays here in the North West. A colleague had heard of the Chester Gift Card, and it was ideal for our needs. Chester is a fantastic city to visit and there are so many opportunities for families to use the card.

The Chester Gift Card was launched in November 2020 as part of the Chester Business Improvement District’s battle plan to support high street shops against the effects of lockdown, and can be spent at over 115 businesses in the city, including shops, restaurants, cafes, attractions, hotels, lounges and more.

Carl Critchlow is Chester BID’s BID manager and said the choice offered through the gift card makes it a good choice for all ages.

He said: ‘It’s fantastic to see a charity in North Wales putting wellbeing and mental health at the top of the agenda, giving parents and families the space and opportunity to rest and relax in Chester.

“It is vital to us that the Chester Gift Card works for a variety of different ages and interests. Parents can have lunch at Chez Jules or any of the 40 other food and drink venues that are part of the Chester gift card, just as easy.as a family you can use the card for a boat trip along the River Dee with the kids with afternoon tea in Zugers.”

Debbie says the services offered by Your Space Marches are vital for families: “In my personal experience as a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it was a very lonely experience.

“Having someone on the phone to talk to makes a huge difference. Typically, families wait about three years for an autism diagnosis, but they still need support through this process. For example, we have a toddler group for 0-5 yrs olds whose parents are worried about their children.

“We do not request diagnoses at Your Space Marches, and we accept families from all over the North West.

“We are grateful for the support of Wrexham Council in funding this mental health initiative to support our families and know that our families will truly appreciate their Chester Gift Card however they choose to use it. Fundraising is vital to help us continue to help our families, and people can get involved in our fundraising activities, including our Manchester 10k which we are organizing by visiting our website: http://yourspacemarches. co.uk/

The Chester Gift Card is part of the award-winning Town & City Gift Card scheme, active in over 70 locations across the UK.

Colin Munro is the Managing Director of Miconex. Every pound spent locally is multiplied many times over, as local businesses then reinvest that money back into the community.

For more information visit http://chestergiftcard.com/

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