LUKE Evans has been supported by the North East Autism Society for 14 years, and his care assistants are almost like part of the family.

So it felt natural for mum Christine to have two of Luke’s care team at her wedding in Gretna, supporting her son to attend the big day.

"Having Luke at our wedding meant the world to us," says Christine, a teaching assistant from Blyth, Northumberland.

"He was supported on the day by two members of his team, who drove him to Gretna, sat with him during the ceremony and the meal, kept him entertained and just ‘knew’ when he was ready to go home. 

Without their support, I have no doubt that Luke wouldn’t have been able to cope so well.

Luke, 26, started in education and residential care with NEAS when he was 12 – first at Sunderland, then in Aycliffe. 

He now lives in his own bungalow in Bedlington, Northumberland, as part of the Society's Independent Supported Living service. Staff help with personal and household tasks and support him out in the community.

Some of his team have been with him for six years and he has flourished under their care. "They treat him like a younger brother, they are lovely with him," Christine says.

"He is so much calmer when he is around them because he knows he's safe. And they are brilliant – they go above and beyond. They put money in a pot so they can sit and have a takeaway meal with him each week. His team leader, Wayne Harrison, stayed on after his shift to decorate his house and paint his bedroom.

The service has a real family atmosphere and builds up a bond of trust with the people they support.

One of Luke's favourite things is theme parks, and his team took him to Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire for his 26th birthday treat. They have also taken him on short holidays to Alton Towers, Blackpool and Northumberland.

Day to day, they support him to live as independent and fulfilling a life as possible. Luke particularly enjoys walks on the beach, being taken on long drives, shopping, going out for meals, and watching TV.

His family say the structure and strategies provided by the NEAS team have helped him thrive. Christine says this was evident on her wedding day: "We approached it with no real expectations. We said from the start that if Luke managed to sit through the ceremony, it would be a bonus. In fact, he managed the ceremony and the meal afterwards.

"I am just so pleased with where he is in life, thanks to NEAS."

Find out more about Supported Living