Founder of autism homes group wins ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award for dedication to specialist care

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Richard Smith accepts his award from Michael Portillo
Richard Smith accepts his award from Michael Portillo

THE founder of a group of homes that supports up to 60 people with autism and learning disabilities has been awarded a care industry ‘Oscar’ for his work.

Richard Smith, who established Homes Caring for Autism in 2004, won the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ category at the 2015 LaingBuisson awards, which celebrate the achievements of individual healthcare providers.

He was presented with a trophy by Michael Portillo, the broadcaster and former Member of Parliament, at a gala dinner at the London Lancaster Hotel.

The judges said: “For over a decade Richard has shown a fierce dedication to the specialist care sector. His commitment to both service users and his staff are enviable as is the continued level of involvement he maintains in a wide variety of related associations and partnership.

“He is an inspirational figure working in a very complex care provider environment and more than deserves the recognition that comes with this LaingBuisson Award for Outstanding Contribution.’

Richard was put forward for the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award by his senior management team without his knowledge. Their nomination included the words: “Richard’s support is unconditional and selfless.

“He has a natural ability to think creatively to support the challenges faced by people, responding with interest to staff that have had ‘breakthroughs’ with individuals. Full of praise, his face visibly lights up when hearing of achievements, however big or small, encouraging people to celebrate successes; he can often be seen sharing good practice and new ideas when visiting services.”

Homes Caring for Autism is based in Weston-super-Mare and employs 330 people, and now runs 11 services across Somerset, Wiltshire, and North Somerset.

Richard re-mortgaged his home and took out a bank loan to pay for the company’s first property in Berrow, Somerset, in response to the lack of opportunities available in the area for people with an autistic spectrum disorder.

He said: “It is really lovely to have won such a prestigious award for work that I believe in passionately.

“So often what is termed ‘challenging behaviour’ by people with autism is a response on their part to particular anxieties. The approach we take at Homes Caring for Autism is to try to discover what those anxieties are and address them, which can take anything from weeks to years.

“We always get enormous pleasure from seeing the difference that can be made to the lives of people who live in our services by understanding their needs, and enabling them to reach their full potential.”

He added: “It was a complete surprise when I discovered I had been nominated for ‘Outstanding Contribution’ by my senior management team, some of whom have been working at Homes Caring for Autism for more than a decade, and I was deeply moved to read their nomination.

“I’ve always believed passionately in the importance of personal contact, and I know that staff appreciate the fact that I visit all our homes and know the staff, and spend an hour and a half with them during inductions.”

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