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Autism Together Host Pop-up Friendship Café to help raise awareness

Merseyside charity Autism Together will be hosting its first ever Friendship Café at Bromborough Pool Garden Centre on Monday 16th October to raise the issue of how important it is to have positive and healthy friendships.

The café will take place during National Hate Crime Awareness Week (14 – 21 October) and is part of Autism Together’s ongoing campaign to tackle ‘mate crime’, where vulnerable people – such as those with autism or learning disabilities – are bullied and manipulated by those they consider to be friends.

The Friendship Café will be open to anyone and everyone from 9.30am to 12pm, and presents an opportunity for autism experts to get together with families, parents and service users to focus on friendship, what makes a friend and how we recognise when people aren’t our friends.

The meet-up follows research carried out by the charity in 2015 which uncovered a previously hidden problem. Of 150 people with autism (or their families) who were questioned, 80% of over 16s felt they had been bullied or taken advantage of by someone who they recognised as a friend. Of those asked in the 16-25 age group, 100% reported having difficulty distinguishing genuine friends from those who may bully or abuse the friendship, with 8 out of 10 saying that the fear of bullying had caused them to turn down social opportunities.

Steve Vasey, manager of Autism Together’s Children and Families service, said: “We thought that by combining the idea of identifying mate crime along with identifying friendships, we could take something that is negative and focus on positive friendship to help challenge this bullying and discrimination that targets vulnerable people. Mate crime is a nasty, evil form of abuse that can be difficult for people with autism to recognise, so let’s talk about how we recognise true friendships and support each other in tackling mate crime by celebrating friendship.”

Key themes which will be discussed during the get together include: what is a friend? How do we make friends? How do we recognise friendship? How do we recognise when someone is pretending to be our friend?

Community members on the autism spectrum, family members and autism professionals are all invited to come along and take a stand against mate crime.

Address: Bromborough Pool Garden Centre, 3&4 The Green, Bromborough Pool Village, Wirral, CH62 4TT

Steve Vasey: 0151 666 9960

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