Dame Stephanie’s life has been dedicated to IT and autism, so it’s in these two specific areas that she chooses to invest her philanthropic energies. She has now given away the majority of her wealth, nearly £70 million in total, causing her to be the first person to drop out of the Sunday Times Rich List as a result of her philanthropy. She finds giving to be an act of hope that greatly enhances her own happiness.
Autistica is the UK’s national autism research charity. They focus on giving autistic people the opportunity to live long, happy, healthy lives by funding research, shaping policy and working with autistic people to understand their needs. Autism comes with both strengths and challenges. Autistic people face poor mental and physical health, much higher rates of early death, one of the highest rates of unemployment in society and limited social inclusion. Research is the best way to improve understanding, find new ways to support people, and change lives for the better. Autistica receives no Government funding, so relies on charitable donations to support their life-changing and life-saving research.
Dame Stephanie founded Autism at Kingwood in 1994 to support her autistic son Giles, removing him from a long-term psychiatric hospital and into a home where he was supported by caring people who, for the first time in his adult life, enabled him to make his own choices about his life. This person-centred value holds true today and the charity supports over 150 autistic adults, ranging from people with complex needs requiring 24/7 support to those receiving outreach support, helping them to live independently. Kingwood has an excellent reputation for, as Dame Stephanie says: ‘providing creative solutions for complex situations and persevering when other services have failed’. The charity is frequently sought to provide highly specialist support to help people transition from inappropriate in-patient settings and into the community.
Prior’s Court is a registered charity providing education and residential care for young people with complex autism, helping them to build brighter, more independent futures. The specialist school, young adult provision and training centre is one of the most advanced of its kind with a worldwide reputation for excellence. The focus is on providing a toolkit of skills for life through the teaching of functional academics, safety, communication and social skills, as well as supporting vocational learning in horticulture, animal husbandry, and even developing an on-site bakery, Bread and Beyond, to create pathways to future employment.
Hear the young people from Prior’s Court perform on their uplifting anthem for autism: Let Me Shine, produced for World Autism Awareness Week.
The OII is a multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the internet. It seeks to contribute to the public good by generating a richer and deeper understanding of life online. Its faculty are the global leaders in multidisciplinary research addressing the impact of new technologies, data and algorithms on every aspect of daily life. With digital connections now embedded throughout our home and work, the work of the OII is crucial to understanding our social, economic and political world.
The WCIT is the 100th Livery Company of the City of London. It was started in the early 1980s by three IT professionals, awarded full Livery Company status in 1992 and achieved its Royal Charter in 2010. Dame Stephanie was invited to be on the founding Court and became its first woman Master. She donated £5 million to enable the Company to acquire a permanent home within the City of London, and to boost its charitable activities. The Company’s work covers three broad areas: promoting commerce in the IT industry, education and training, and charitable activities.
Dame Stephanie’s prolific work, especially in the fields of autism and IT, leaves an enduring legacy that will benefit many for years to come.