A new peer support group specifically for teenage girls who are affected by autism is being launched, thanks to funding awarded by the County Durham Community Foundation as part of the Tampon Tax Community Fund.

The amount of £9,812.86 has been awarded to Daisy Chain to facilitate the new service which will support vulnerable and socially isolated girls who have a diagnosis of autism, many of whom are currently unemployed and don’t access education or training and have limited opportunity for social interaction.

The group will take part in a range of activities at Daisy Chain’s Norton site including cooking, crafts and workshops on key topics such as e-safety and health and wellbeing. The group will also take part in social activities in the local area such as visiting a coffee shop or cinema, allowing them to increase their confidence, develop life skills and independence.

The activities will be focussed around supporting the girls to develop a network of friendship and peer support whilst also addressing key issues around keeping safe, wellbeing, confidence and health. The members of the group will be highly involved in the planning of activities, resulting in a bespoke delivery based on service users’ interests and needs.

Generally, there is a much higher number of boys diagnosed with autism than girls and recent research has suggested that many girls and women on the spectrum may be misdiagnosed, receive a late diagnosis or not be diagnosed at all. A lack of understanding around the experiences of girls on the spectrum and the presentation of their differences can leave many women and girls feeling unsupported and misunderstood. They may struggle to understand themselves which can lead to low self-esteem, mental health difficulties and social isolation. By using the funding provided by the Tampon Tax Community Fund, Daisy Chain will be able to offer a source of support and understanding to girls on the spectrum. This will allow them to learn more about themselves and give them the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with peers and enhance their wellbeing, health and self-worth.

Hayley Matthews, Head of Services, said, “We are extremely happy to be able to develop our services for girls on the spectrum as a result of the generous funding received through the Tampon Tax Community Fund. Our service will assist vulnerable females affected by autism to be safer, develop their confidence, improve their health and wellbeing and be part of a supportive peer network.

Pearl Berry, Donor Services Manager at County Durham Community Foundation, said, “This funding supports the groups on the ground that are making a huge difference to the lives of women and girls. We know there is a huge demand out there for these services and are proud to help small organisations working in our community to access vital public funding, which otherwise they may miss out on.”

The group will meet Monday evenings every other week, with daytime appointments being offered for bespoke one-to-one sessions with a staff member. To find out more about the service or request a place in the group, please contact the Daisy Chain Care Team on 01642 531248.