We are sad to hear that Lord Christopher Wakehurst died last week. Lord Wakehurst devoted much of his life to trying to make society work better for autistic people by setting up the Inge Wakehurst Trust and supported our charity for several decades .
We will always be thankful for his generosity and his commitment to creating a society that works for autistic people and their families – a mission that we wholeheartedly share. Our thoughts are with all Lord Wakehurst's family at this very difficult time.
Lord Wakehurst was born Christopher Loder in 1925. He inherited his peerage when his father died in 1970 and was a member of the House of Lords until 1999. Lord Wakehurst had two children, Timothy (who is autistic) and Christina. Sadly, their mother, Lord Wakehurst’s first wife Inge, died in 1977.
In Inge’s memory, Lord Wakehurst set up the Inge Wakehurst Trust. According to its founding documents, the Trust’s mission was, “the advancement of education and the provision of training in the methods of caring for people with autism and related conditions and to assist in improving the care and welfare of such individuals by providing funding for research or such other methods as the trustees shall consider appropriate.”
Society was very different in the 1970s and understanding of autism was incredibly low. There was almost no information or advice available for autistic people or their families. Inge Wakehurst Trust, throughout the 1970s and 1980s put on some of the first ever conferences and seminars to help people learn about autism. The National Autistic Society partnered with the Trust, and later it supported our charity to set up our own training service, which now reaches thousands of professionals a year.
The Inge Wakehurst Trust went on to support a huge number of initiatives to help transform autistic people’s lives. Because of the Trust, parents of newly-diagnosed autistic children (at the time, it was overwhelmingly children who were diagnosed) had somewhere to turn for advice and support through the funding of the National Autistic Society advice line, as well as what is now our Lorna Wing Centre. The Trust also helped with costs to set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism and funded important work on employment.
The Trust was formally wound up in 2018 following its last grant to vital research on health inequality for older autistic people in Newcastle University in partnership with the National Autistic Society, which has left a strong legacy.
Lord Wakehurst is survived by his wife Brigid and his son Timothy. Our thoughts are with all Lord Wakehurst's family at this very difficult time.
The National Autistic Society owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Lord Wakehurst. Without his support, our charity might never have grown from its humble beginnings in North London 60 years ago, to being a national charity with a wealth of advice and support for autistic people and their families throughout their lives. We will always be thankful for his generosity and his commitment to create a society that works for autistic people and their families – a mission that we wholeheartedly share.
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