Finance: Futurebuilders to invest £5.2m in centre forautism education

Futurebuilders England has agreed its largest investment yet, with autism charity the TreeHouse Trust.

The investment, amounting to £5.2m, will contribute towards the creation of a national centre for autism education.

The package, which consists of a £5m loan and a grant of £209,000, is the largest that Futurebuilders has negotiated since it was launched by the Home Office at the end of 2003. It will be repaid over 25 years with the interest rate fixed at 6 per cent for the first four years.

The centre, which is set to open in 2007, will include a school and facilities for teacher training and research, consultancy and policy functions.

The school will be open to families in north London, while the centre's other roles will serve statutory and voluntary children's bodies, professionals, parents' groups and individuals nationwide.

The total cost of the project is £11.5m. The rest of the money will be raised through a fundraising appeal, which has already accrued £2m.

However, if the fundraising target is not met, the loan will be given back.

Christine Asbury, chief executive of TreeHouse, said: "The £5.2m investment from Futurebuilders takes TreeHouse almost halfway towards raising the funds needed to build our centre. The investment will improve the lives of 100,000 children with autism nationwide, who will benefit from our work to raise standards in autism education, as demonstrated in our flagship school."

Futurebuilders, which was set up to fund voluntary sector contributions to the improvement of public services, supports only those projects that have opened talks with public sector service purchasers. TreeHouse's current school serves 10 local education authorities in north London, which are legally obliged to provide appropriate education for students with autism. But the school is heavily oversubscribed.

The grant element of the investment package will provide the salaries and costs of two new posts in the charity - a director of service development and a head of public affairs - for two years.

Richard Gutch, chief executive of Futurebuilders, said: "This project is really inspiring. As well as the loan, we've also given TreeHouse a £200,000 grant. This will pay for extra staff and help it develop its services and share its experience with other organisations."

- See How we got the grant, page 14

FACT FILE

Futurebuilders England is to give a £5.2m loan and a £209,000 grant to autism charity the TreeHouse Trust

The money will contribute to the creation of a national centre for autism education, which will open in 2007

The centre will include a school and facilities for teacher training and research The total cost of the centre is £11.5m. The rest will be raised through fundraising

The grant element of the investment package will provide the salaries and costs of two new posts in the charity for two years.

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