A Staffordshire man who has been supporting and campaigning for people with autism since his own diagnosis 16 years ago has been recognised with a national honour.
Kevin Healey, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, has been given a British Citizen Award for his services to volunteering and charitable giving.
The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in January 2015, to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise by overlooked.
Kevin, aged 42, has volunteered his services, both locally and nationally, to raise awareness and support people with autism, since his diagnosis at the age of 27.
Dedicated to supporting people with autism, Kevin has set up two autism charities, as well as a radio station to support people in his local community in Staffordshire. The radio station, which ran for approximately four years, was run by a group of volunteers and was a great success. Kevin was also a non-paid director of the largest autism charity in the UK, The National Autistic Society, which supports more than half a million people in the UK with autism. Kevin stepped down to focus on his own charity, and his upcoming film called ‘Twin Brothers World Apart’, however he is still onboard with the NAS as a Regional National Forum member, where he has currently service for eight years.
Kevin was a founder of the charity, The North Staffs Asperger Autism Association (NSAAA), which was set up in October 2001 and supported thousands of people through its dedicated helpline. Kevin has secured funding for the charity of over £400,000 through applying for grants and donations.
In 2007, Kevin stepped down from his role at NSAAA, and was approached by a large number of adults who felt they needed support and access to services. As a result, Kevin set up the Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society (SAAS) later that year, which covers the whole of Staffordshire. The charity, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, has been a great success, and has helped thousands of people across the county.
Raising awareness of autism is at the forefront of everything Kevin does on a day-to-day basis, from helping hundreds of people via the helpline, to speaking in schools, colleges and universities. Kevin has a large social media presence, with a following of over 170,000 people, and uses this as a platform to raise awareness and to answer questions surrounding autism. Kevin used the power of social media for his latest anti-bullying campaign, and contacted Lord Alan Sugar’s son. As a result, Lord Sugar got involved in the campaign and donated thousands of pounds worth of advertising. The campaign, which is ongoing, has been shown on 100 screens across Europe, in petrol stations and GP surgeries, in an attempt to change laws about disability hate crime.
In 2008, Kevin wrote an autobiography, which is currently being made into a film. The film looks back at the 1980s, of Kevin and his twin brother, Shaun, who is also on the autism spectrum, as children, and aims to education people on the lack of understanding around autism. The film is due to be premiered in Stoke on Trent later this year, with the hope of later being shown at film festivals around the country. Kevin plans for the film to be shown in schools, colleges and universities, to highlight the condition and how it can be missed by schools.
Kevin was one of 29 medallists who were honoured at a prestigious ceremony on January 26, at the Palace of Westminster. All BCA recipients have positively impact society undertaking various activities in support of a number of causes. Each received a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medallists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.
The awards ceremony was presented by TV presenter, and BCA Patron, Bradley Walsh, who also hosted the post-event drinks reception at Church House Conference Centre.
Speaking about his award, Kevin said: “I didn’t know I had been nominated so it came as a total shock when I found out I was receiving this award. I won the Citizen of the Year award for Stoke on Trent and North Staffordshire in 2006, so I am delighted that ten years on I am receiving a national award.”
The awards are in partnership with customer experience management company, InMoment, and are supported by the world’s largest optical retailer, Specsavers; one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, Places for People; leading ethical law firm Irwin Mitchell; the UK and Europe’s leading palletised freight distribution company, Pall-Ex, owned by BCAs Patron Hilary Devey CBE; and specialist marketing, PR and communications agency, Lime Marketing – who each had representatives at the assessment day and presented the awards.
Chris Tancock, director of owned operations at Pall-Ex Group, presented Kevin with his award. He commented: “Kevin truly is an inspiration to people everywhere. His commitment and dedication to raising awareness of autism and ensuring that those diagnosed with autism receive the support that they deserve is admirable. His achievements and selflessness make him a worthy recipient of the British Citizen Awards’ BCAv.”
Kevin was nominated for a BCA by Julie Kearns, SAAS Trustee and Treasurer, who said: “I have known Kevin for almost seven years, and he is so compassionate and dedicated about helping people on the autism spectrum. Kevin has tirelessly campaigned for autism rights, and strives for earlier diagnosis and better services and support. There is little or no support for people after mainstream education, and adults can often slip through the net, and the charity aims to fill this gap.
“Kevin has received a number of awards over the years, but I am absolutely delighted that has received national recognition for his hard work.”
The awards have attracted support from several high-profile patrons, including Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, Specsavers co-founder, Dame Mary Perkins, Pall-Ex founder and CEO, Hilary Devey CBE and TV presenter, Bradley Walsh.