HUNDREDS of young people suffering from autism and their families across East Lancashire are facing the loss of vital respite services.

Funding worries surround the future of several social clubs provided by Burnley-based Action for ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) with the end of the government’s Aiming High for Disabled Children programme.

Another £40 million funding pot will be available by the Department for Education when Aiming High ceases but no firm decisions have been made on future handouts.

Campaigners have launched a drive to raise £150,000 to meet the annual running costs of their King Street Mill centre, which provides support for families in Blackburn, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley and Rossendale, as well as Burnley.

Centre manager Gemma Sampford said: “Basically we are going to lose our major source of funding at the end of March.

“We don’t have any other funding secured so we are putting in a number of applications, to different organisations.

“We provide respite services for people with autistic spectrum disorders across East Lancashire and our membership is nearly 300 strong.”

Services in peril include: Family ‘chill-out’ clubs, staged on Mondays and Saturdays An ‘Impact’ club on Wednesdays for eight to 18-year-olds with Asperger Syndrome A second Saturday club for Asperger youngsters A school holiday activities programme Centre member Tony Copley has launched his own fundraising campaign for the organisation, Autographs for Autism.

Once he has collected a series of signed photos, via his Twitter website, he is aiming to sell them off on his own e-Bay site, Auction4ASD.