A British autism charity that acquired a whole lot of hundreds of kilos in nationwide lottery funding has hyperlinks to the anti-vaccine motion and is being collectively run by a campaigner who likened the Covid-19 jab rollout to a Nazi struggle crime.
Pondering Autism additionally promoted unproven autism remedies in testimonials on its web site and directed households to clinicians linked to the disgraced former physician Andrew Wakefield, an investigation has discovered.
The Charity Fee stated it had opened a case into the charity and was assessing proof handed to it by the Observer. It comes seven years after a campaigner claims she first raised issues about Pondering Autism with the regulator and Nationwide Lottery Group Fund.
Awarded charity standing in 2006, Pondering Autism claims to “change lives” by offering “hope, emotional help and sensible info” to autistic individuals and their households, and has acquired £389,750 from the lottery fund since 2015.
It’s collectively run by Joanne Allman, a vocal Covid sceptic who final 12 months stood as a neighborhood election candidate in Sefton, Merseyside, for the Freedom Alliance, a “campaigning political get together” born out of the pandemic to “resist assaults on medical freedom and physique autonomy”.
On social media, Allman – described in information as a trustee, treasurer and director of Pondering Autism – dismissed Omicron as “moronic variant scariant BULLSHIT” in a put up on Fb in November 2021 and final month re-shared a put up on Twitter calling the vaccine rollout a “reckless, harmful, insane experiment”.
In different posts she stated PCR testing was a “fraud underlying the best hoax in medical historical past” and tweeted that individuals “the world over” have been being “coerced into having an experimental vaccine”. Alongside an image of the Nuremberg trials, held after the second world struggle to carry Nazi struggle criminals to justice, she wrote: “How lengthy will we have now to attend earlier than these … who’re complicit in tyranny are delivered to justice for crimes in opposition to humanity?”
Whereas these posts have been from Allman’s private accounts, campaigners expressed safeguarding issues for weak households searching for assist from Pondering Autism, which hosts conferences, on-line occasions and runs a non-public Fb group.
The charity itself has publicly been largely quiet on Covid-related points, apart from saying its opposition to vaccine passports. But it surely has a historical past of selling misinformation relationship again to no less than 2014, when it shared a video in help of analysis by Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register for a discredited examine claiming vaccines have been linked to autism.
Its web site, in the meantime, carries testimonials for unproven autism “remedies” together with homeopathy and “CEASE remedy”, a pseudoscientific strategy that claims to take away supposed poisonous results from outdoors sources, together with vaccines.
Campaigner Emma Dalmayne, who runs Autistic Inclusive Meets, a non-profit organisation that advocates for autistic individuals, stated she first reported issues in regards to the charity’s alleged promotion of unproven remedies to the Charity Fee and Nationwide Lottery Group Fund in 2015.
She questioned why it was nonetheless working seven years later. “The Charity Fee is probably placing weak youngsters in danger by lending credibility to organisations like Pondering Autism,” she stated.
Michael Marshall, undertaking director on the Good Pondering Society, which campaigns in opposition to pseudoscience, stated it was “extraordinarily troubling” to see individuals linked to the charity “making an attempt to undermine efforts to curb the unfold of Covid-19”. “If they can’t perceive the significance of public well being measures, and can’t chorus from baseless scaremongering about vaccines, they shouldn’t be able the place their misinformed opinions could put youngsters in hurt’s manner,” he stated.
Pondering Autism stated members of the charity have been “free to carry their very own views” and that it endorsed the rights of autistic individuals and their households to talk about their healthcare experiences. It stated it heard from “a whole lot of households” every year thanking it for its help. “The charity doesn’t endorse any particular view besides that individuals with autism who’re affected by healthcare issues deserve applicable investigations and coverings,” it stated. “As a result of healthcare is a person and private alternative, and since we aren’t medical professionals however fairly dad or mum volunteers, we’re explicitly clear on our web site and social media that info we offer shouldn’t be construed as medical recommendation.”
Allman stated the posts have been produced from her private social media accounts and didn’t make references to autism. “My private opinions on Covid-related points don’t have any bearing on my function as a director and trustee of Pondering Autism,” she stated.
The Charity Fee stated it had opened a compliance case regarding issues raised about Pondering Autism, “together with the charity’s use of social media”, and was “at the moment partaking with the trustees”. It stated it had “no file” of a 2015 grievance.
The Nationwide Lottery Group Fund, which allocates cash raised by the lottery to group teams and charities, stated its funding relationship with Pondering Autism “reached its conclusion” in 2020. In relation to the 2015 grievance it stated: “We seemed into it and have been happy that the funding was getting used in step with the agreed proposal.”