A PROJECT which healthcare group Seqol helps oversee has won a prestigious award.

The national Great Autism Practice Award has been won by the Understanding Autism project, which the group works with in partnership with Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BGSW CRC) and the National Probation Service (NPS).

Seqol is a social enterprise group which provides healthcare for people in Swindon and the surrounding area.

Sue Smith, Seqol’s professional lead for healthcare, said: “This is a great example of agencies working together towards a common goal for a group of individuals that can often be misunderstood.

“We have been able to show how investing some carefully-tailored support can save time and minimise distress for service users, their families and those supporting them.

“There have been some great examples of better outcomes for really vulnerable individuals.”

The Understanding Autism project was started in 2013 following a successful bid by Seqol and Wiltshire Probation Trust for a grant from the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Innovation Fund.

John Wiseman, BGSW CRC’s probation director, said: “This is yet another fantastic example of what can be achieved when we work in partnership. Understanding autism is really important in criminal justice.

“The work that has been done and the outcomes achieved by this project need to be replicated more widely across the sector.

“Congratulations to all those involved.”

The first phase of the project was to deliver autism awareness training sessions to all frontline probation staff.

In the second part, Seqol clinicians and autism specialists facilitated clinical support sessions for BGSW CRC and NPS staff who had specific concerns with some of their service users.

Alongside this, a pilot for an autism-specific befriending scheme for five service users was also started.

Co-ordinated by Priory College, this part of the project will be evaluated later in 2015 by the University of West of England.

Andrew Murray, BGSW CRC manager, said: “This award shows why working together to address the needs of our service users is so important.

“It has led to the development of great practice which will make big improvements to people’s lives.”