Penelope wins national autism award

Penelope Clark.

A SHETLAND community liaison nurse has won a top prize at this year’s Autism Professionals Awards.

Penelope Clark won the outstanding healthcare professional award at the national event, which was held in Harrogate last week.

The NHS Shetland employee, who was unable to attend the ceremony in person, said she was “overwhelmed and overjoyed” at her win.

Penelope is a community liaison nurse for learning disabilities and autism and she works with a range of services including supported living and outreach, day centres, respite services, children’s nurses, schools and social workers, as well as individuals and their families.

She has also “changed the referral process so people can refer direct, cutting down waiting times and worry”.

Penelope moved to Shetland in 2017 and since then she has strived to make improvements for locals.

“It’s a real honour to win this award, and to be recognised for what we are trying to achieve in Shetland,” she said.

“It was a big decision to move my whole family 800 miles for this role but it really feels like we’re making progress and improving opportunities for autistic people and their families.

“I strongly believe in positive outcomes and have seen the difference understanding and the right support can make. I always support individuals and their families to embrace their diagnosis as something positive – as something that can help them to understand themselves and to get the support they need to live fulfilling lives.”

In addition, Penelope started a regular learning disability and autism meeting, which brings professionals and third sector workers together.

She also works with the local health improvement team on training and raising funds to promote awareness and the health of those with autism and learning disabilities in Shetland.

Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism Carol Povey commented: “Support and services in the UK are still far too patchy.

“We hope that sharing the stories of our winners and finalists, including Penelope’s, we will inspire other people and organisations – and give them some ideas about how they can make a real difference.”