Aspire was first established in Cambridge in 2005, and 10 autistic young people attended its first group. 

Since that time Romsey Mill’s Aspire work has grown, benefitting hundreds of children and young people over the years. 

There are now 13 weekly Aspire youth clubs across Cambridge city and South Cambridgeshire, attended by around 180 children and young people every week. 

In addition to the weekly youth clubs, Romsey Mill’s Aspire team also provides one-to-one support to young people, as well as advocacy and support for families. 

The team has a wealth of experience in autism youth work and is recognised as a project that is unique in the local area, providing support for autistic young people with a diagnosis of autism, and who are on the rolls of mainstream schools. 

Since 2017, Romsey Mill has been delivering community-based youth development work in Hampton in Peterborough and has long wanted to extend its Aspire work to support autistic young people in the city.

Last year, Romsey Mill was invited by the NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care Board (ICB) to establish Aspire’s autism youth work in Peterborough. This was because the ICB recognised that Romsey Mill’s Aspire work plays a positive and preventative role in addressing mental health for autistic children and young people. 

In October 2023, Romsey Mill appointed Rebekah Adenaike-Fere, as Peterborough Programme Development Lead, to develop Romsey Mill’s existing youth development presence in Hampton, Peterborough and throughout the city; and to lead the establishment and development of Aspire’s work in Peterborough.
Rebekah spent several weeks in the autumn term working alongside our Cambridge-based Aspire team, to develop an understanding of Romsey Mill’s ethos, and to experience and learn about how Aspire’s youth clubs are run for autistic children and young people, and how the wider support for families is delivered. 

During December 2023, Rebekah began to invite referrals from local Hampton secondary schools, of young people who were eligible and would benefit from attending Aspire groups.  

Then, just before Christmas, the team was able to hold an Aspire youth club ‘taster session’, which was attended by six young people, supported by Rebekah along with Ruth, Sarah and Kat from our Cambridgeshire Aspire team.

Rebekah said: 

“The taster session went really well and there was a great response from the young people who attended. They had lots of opportunities to try the youth club activities, such as games and crafts; and to meet with others. 

“Some of the young people were connecting with another autistic person for the first time. The young people and their parents were really excited about the session and eager for the new Aspire youth clubs to begin.”
Following the success of the taster session, the first weekly Aspire youth group launched in the Spring term, in the youth space at Christ the Servant King church in Hampton. 

 “We've now launched our first Aspire group in Peterborough and we are all very excited about the great work that is taking place here. 

We have created a safe space for young autistic people to thrive and our young people have enjoyed attending the groups over the last few weeks.”

In addition to funding from the NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough ICB, Romsey Mill has also secured some funding from Peterborough City Council to develop Aspire youth clubs in the city. This helps to establish a foundation, from which the team hopes to develop further provision to support autistic young people in Peterborough. 

Rebekah says: 

“We are looking forward to developing more groups as we continue to map out and meet the needs of young autistic people in Peterborough.

“We are excited to see these small beginnings grow and for Aspire in Peterborough go from strength to strength.”