Corporate Vision March 2017

42 CORPORATE VISION / March 2017 , Philip Bartey, CEO of AutismPlus, is passionate about his work and tells us more about the firm, its initiatives and the secrets to its success, and his own CEO of the year success. Fire in the Belly Autism Plus was founded in 1986 by a small group of parents of Autistic children. The founders were concerned regarding the dearth of available provision to support their children so they created a small local service to meet their needs in South Yorkshire. In the early days, Autism Plus provided limited residential services and later developed day care facilities. Philip Bartey was appointed CEO in 2005 and increased the size of the organisation from £2m to £10m annually. The service broke out from its limited South Yorkshire base and expanded across Yorkshire and Humber. Today, Autism Plus works from 29 service locations across Yorkshire and Humber employing 450 staff and supporting 300 adults primarily diagnosed with autism. Philip tells us more about the firm, the work it does and its ongoing strategy to ensure continued success. “Our core business is social care where we provide residential and supported living services on a 24/7 basis each week of the year,” he begins. “Our adult service customers range in age terms from 18 to elderly and each and every one is very different in terms of their condition that we describe as the ‘Autism Spectrum’. At the far end of the spectrum the customers are more able and are often diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. This client group mostly display tremendous aptitude for complex work with numbers, complex detail with remarkable levels of memory recall. Recently a person with Asperger’s syndrome was flown over New York in a helicopter and later drew a detailed accurate drawing from memory recalling precisely the shape, number and layout of every building across the city. Some of the windows in the drawing were darkened with his pencil. When asked about this he responded that the drawing reflected precisely the number of dirty windows he observed in each building. This is an example of the latent talent each autistic person displays. However autistic people are often excluded from employment because they have communication difficulties. “At the opposite end of the spectrum we have autistic people with severe and complex conditions and this group requires 24/7 support often within a residential or supported living environment although a good number still live with their parents and families but require outreach or community support.” “Our strategy includes spreading our service risk more widely in recognition that commissioners vary across the region in terms of their capacity to respond. We are focussing on the five key city regions within Yorkshire and Humber to take advantage of increased devolution of powers and funding from central government to the regions.” Philip explains that Autism Plus has positioned itself to create unique selling points in order to differentiate from the competition. “We have worked hard to improve the quality of our provision and all our core service areas have achieved a ‘Good’ rating from the Care Quality Commission. We also receive many compliments from parents, families and commissioners regarding our work. In 2011 I was not satisfied with simply conducting internal audits of our business and hoping the next CQC inspection would go well. The gap between inspections could often be a year or more so my staff would not be used to the inspection process and despite their dedication and experience they would sometimes find the inspectors intimidating. I therefore commissioned an external auditing and mock inspection company to provide more support for front line staff. External validation of quality and standards adds independent value to management and board audits. We were able to identify and rectify fault lines in advance of the real inspection but importantly the confidence and capability of my team improved enormously. I commissioned further staff training in understanding how and when to challenge inspectors (who sometimes get it wrong). This key move improved the quality of our business and ratings enormously. I do not know of any other provider that has adopted this comprehensive approach.” At the core of Autism Plus’s strategy it has developed person-centred approaches in recognition that every customer is different. This has proven essential to understand the differences between each individual and it is important to discover what their personal attributes and aspirations are. “Beyond support within a caring environment most customers want to work, to feel valued and to gain more independence. In 2010 we engaged in the New Deal Programme and successfully placed 1800 autistic people into employment. With a change of government the New Deal was scrapped and the coalition launched the Work Programme. The work programme was unhelpful for disabled people as the government wanted quick results and engaged with large national companies who were incentivised according to the number of people they placed into work. This led to the ‘parking’ of disabled people and we disengaged from the programme.” More recently Philip and the company launched a range of social enterprises across the region including a working chocolate factory at Ampleforth in North Yorkshire. The factory produces high-quality handmade chocolates and involves disabled co-workers in the process. The site has only been operational for 18 months but is proving to be a great success already. On the same site Austism Plus has also launched a horticultural service and provides vegetables to the local colleges and communities. He also purchased a musical instrument manufacturing business with an established UK customer base. Within the first year of acquiring the business, it broke into the global export market for the first time. “We are planning more micro enterprises at Ampleforth including a vintage Morris Minor car hire business and woodland management,” says Philip. “At the heart of our social enterprises the primary aim is to upskill disabled adults, to get them a foot on the employment ladder and to assist them in progressing to open employment. Our secondary aim is to open up new income streams as dependence on state income is diminishing. “The social enterprises we have created offer a unique selling point for our customers and commissioners. Providing such an exciting range of enterprises 1701CV10