WIRRAL charity Autism Together's 50th anniversary celebrations continue with the launch of a major fundraising appeal today.

Its Future 50 appeal aims to raise £2.5m for a building project to rebuild the original residential home, Raby Hall in Wirral, replacing it with a world-leading autism-specific building suitable for up to 12 patients.

The plan is to build a world-leading centre where biometric technology will be used to 'see inside' people with autism who may not be able to speak and explain their anxiety or distress to carers.

A charity spokesperson told the Globe that the project will be roll out in stages over a five-year period and there are already plans for future applications for biometric technology within the building.

The ground-breaking appeal will be launched by Christine McGuinness, wife of TV personality Paddy McGuinness, and mother of two young children, later today.

In a campaign video Christine, a former Miss Liverpool who lives near Chester and has strong connections to Merseyside, said: "When you learn that autism is in your life, as I have recently, you realise that it is up to you to help shape the future for the people you love.

"This is a brave project being run by people who really care and as soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to support it.

"I hope in 50 years’ time – or even sooner – this technology will be in use everywhere."

At the purpose-built centre, lightweight biometric wristbands, which resemble Fitbits but are much more sensitive, will be worn by patients.

They’ll reveal increases in heart rate and skin moisture and temperature, indicating growing anxiety and enabling carers to take action ahead of a meltdown.

An initial trial with the wristbands will begin this spring with seven residents at an existing care home in Wirral run by Autism Together.

Its chief executive Robin Bush, said: "Our vision at Autism Together is to set the standard for a new generation of inpatient care using a high-tech approach, so that people with autism can be fully understood and helped to live the best lives possible.

"The possibilities for this technology are endless.

"We can work with non-verbal autistic people to help establish what reduces their anxiety and use the technology to identify the causes of increased anxiety.

“We can identify what causes sleep disturbance (a common feature in autism).

"We can assess each individual's needs, head off challenging behaviours, reduce hospital crisis admissions and potentially, make huge savings to the public purse.

"We're truly grateful to Christine (McGuinness) for supporting our project.

"There's a real sense of urgency pushing us forward with this.

"We're convinced that introducing this new technology into autism care will be game changing – but we can't embark on our plan without public support and donations.

"As autism professionals we recognise that there's a national placement crisis, with misunderstood people either trapped in hospital with nowhere suitable to go - or sent to inappropriate residential homes, where staff don't fully understand their needs."

NHS figures from 2015 show that as many as 24,000 people with learning disabilities or autism were at risk of admission to hospital, revealing the large number of people at crisis point at any one time.

Figures from last autumn show that a third of people with autism in hospital had been there for two years or more.

The Future 50 appeals starts the next chapter for Autism Together, which has grown from humble beginnings.

Originally called Wirral Society for Autistic Children, it was set up in 1968 and bought its Raby Hall headquarters ten years later.

The building was so popular that demand outgrew the Raby site and a second building was built at the site. The charity supports 450 adults across Wirral.

As well as residential housing at the Raby site, it also has accommodation in Birkenhead, Heswall and Liscard.

The charity also supports people in their own homes.

It provides a range of activities from painting and pottery through to woodworking, canoeing, climbing, narrowboating and trampolining.

On the charity’s creation and growth, Mr Bush told the Globe recently: "Back in 1968, autism was still relatively unheard of as a condition and so, in the pre-Google days, if you wanted to find out anything about it, you had to go off to the library and look through Encyclopaedia Britannica to see what you could find out.

"It was set up by a group of parents who realised there was a gap in provision for autistic people and decided to do something about by setting up a charity to provide services for children on the autism spectrum.

"One of the reasons we are so successful is that we are rooted in the community.

"We have a strong community presence and although we changed our name from Wirral Autistic Society to Autism Together two years ago, we are still very firmly focused on our roots here, very proud of our heritage on Wirral but also keen to develop further and expand outside the geographical footprint that we’ve got.

"We now provide services to Cheshire and North Wales and have 32 local authorities who refer clients to us, so people from around the country live here with us in Wirral.

"Over the last four years we have won a host of national awards for services we provide.

"But what makes us such an important provider of services is the people.

"We have increasingly tried to focus on what makes us special and one of the country's leading providers of services and, of course, it's the people.

"I employ about 1,000 staff and they do an incredible job, every day.

"You can talk about autism in terms of diagnoses and behaviours, but autism is about people and Autism Together is about people.

"So, we try to support our staff as well as we support the people.

"Looking to the future is about developing the best standard of accommodation and using really innovative applications of technology.

"For example, we're doing some pioneering work with the use of sensors to understand how people respond to their living environments and we want to ensure that over the next five decades we are continued to be looked on as the country’s leading provider of autism services and we also continue to service our communities as well as we always have done."

For more information on the Future 50 appeal visit www.autismtogether.co.uk/future50.

To donate £5 to the appeal text NEXT02 £5 to 70070.