Gannochy Youth Panel Fund improving lives for young people with autism

In early 2023, The Gannochy Trust launched an innovative new Youth Panel Fund for Perth and Kinross, managed by a group of 12 enterprising young people. So far, the panel has met three times this year granting £42,126.57 of funds out of an annual funding pot of £100,000.

The panel’s objectives centre around three core areas of work: Youth Activity – to provide learning-based activities and experiences for young people; Youth Voice – empowering young people through projects that support their opinion being heard; and Youth Health and Wellbeing – helping young people develop independent living skills and activities that are focused on improving their wellbeing.

One of the first charities to receive funding was Perth Autism Support (SCIO) (PAS), who were awarded a grant of £5000 in the spring of 2023. The funding went to establish a new PAS Youth Voice Panel, a group of young people raising awareness of autism across Perth & Kinross, breaking down barriers and improving opportunities for people with the condition.

PAS was founded in November 2011 to support gaps identified in the support of autistic children and young people up to the age of 18 and their families in Perth & Kinross. The charity currently support on average 240 young people every week through their social opportunities and many more children, young people and parents/carers through the charity’s one to one support, family and education support and training. They currently have 1,200+ families registered for their services across Perth & Kinross.

Angie Ferguson, founder and CEO of PAS said: “My son was diagnosed with autism when he was five, and PAS was born out of my own struggles to find social opportunities for him in Perth and Kinross. Finding the right fit in a mainstream school was proving difficult, with many under equipped to support someone with the condition. I realised a need for more awareness of Autism and to break down barriers to opportunity for our neurodivergent young people. This is at the heart of everything we do at PAS. How to deliver the same opportunities for all our young people.”

As a long-term beneficiary of The Gannochy Trust, PAS have managed to grow their services across the board, and the Youth Fund was the perfect fit for their work in giving young people a greater voice in the community.

Angie continues: “What’s great about this is you have 12 young people on a Gannochy Trust funding panel making decisions that directly affect the lives of other young people in the community. It’s wonderful to see and it is exactly this level of responsibility and say in community matters that we want for our own Youth Voice Panel members.

The unfortunate truth is currently, most people with autism are woefully underrepresented. If you look at employability, only 15% of the work force in full time employment have autism and if you consider areas of leadership and governance, it’s even worse.”

Angie goes on to talk more about the panel’s vital work in the community. She continues: “Currently our panel consists of six people tasked with making change in the community. Core objectives include raising awareness of autism, tackling stigmas around the condition and breaking down barriers to social, education and employment opportunities.

The group has been busy putting together education resources that tell the story of what it’s like to live with autism, which will be shared with the community through meetings, workshops and other social platforms. Over the next few months, the panel will be visiting education services, children services, Perth and Kinross Council, social care partnerships and community planning groups across the region who want to understand more about autism from a lived experience perspective.

Inclusive governance is also high up on the agenda, as we push to improve neurodiversity on boards and in management. The panel will be working closely with our own board and leadership teams to understand better what it’s like to be a trustee and lead a charity, working on soft skills around communications, team working and leadership.

The panel will also be travelling to the Scottish Parliament to push the autism agenda at Government level, with meetings scheduled with John Swinney MSP and other local members of parliament and Government Minsters.”

Funding from the Gannochy Trust has gone to help with some of the operational costs of the PAS Youth Voice Panel which includes transport costs to allow young people to attend meetings and visit organisations as part of their awareness building programme, as well as funding the marketing resources and tools the panel are putting together to push their message.

Angie said: “As a charity we rely on the support of organisations such as The Gannochy Trust to deliver our work, and having access to a new branch of funding through the Youth Panel Fund is hugely helpful to our efforts. We have plans to send some of our own group to Gannochy to learn more about how a charitable trust works and meet some of the Youth Panel Fund members to share their stories and learnings. Seeing other young people with a voice and making responsible decisions is an inspiration.”

Angie shares her vision of how the Youth Voice Panel will grow over the next few years. She said: “What I would love to see is some of the older more experienced panel members mentoring the younger children, so we have a sustainable model of learning and development.

I’d also like to see real progress at a leadership level, so that autism is firmly on the agenda for organisations that create and deliver our community services. Different young people require different approaches, so services need to be tailored to this. Our education and awareness programme helps leaders to understand the challenges and barriers for people living with autism, and this is something we will continue to deliver. The young voice panel is only in its infancy, but I believe it has the potential to make lasting change given time and the right support.”

For further information, guidance and a Gannochy Trust Youth Panel grant application, visit here

To contact Perth Autism Support (SCIO), contact or call 01738 451081