SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has written to Health Minister, Robin Swann calling for increased investment in autism services, in part to navigate the impact of the pandemic.
Mr Durkan said the National Autistic Society’s ‘Left Stranded’ report presents stark evidence that autistic people and their families have been significantly impacted during lockdown.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“Lockdown and its aftermath has undoubtedly impacted on all our lives but for those living with autism this upheaval has proven extremely challenging.
“I’ve listened to heart-wrenching accounts within my own constituency, from families who have struggled throughout lockdown without respite, limited access to services and for many households where routine is golden this monumental shift in their daily lives and coming to terms with the new normal has been hugely detrimental.
“The findings in this report, show the events of recent months have had a disproportionate and often devastating impact on the mental health, wellbeing and education prospects of autistic people and their families.
“I acknowledge there are many organisations who have and continue to support the community during this difficult time but it is critical increased investment is ring-fenced for autism services; which were already struggling with demand pre-Covid.
“These challenges are nothing new, and while there has been some progress since the SDLP introduced the Autism Act in 2011, there is still a long way to go. We cannot rest on our laurels where the delivery of effective and accessible autism services is concerned.
“Autism NI are currently carrying out a consultation survey on the Autism Strategy and clear need for a new funding model, I would urge people to take part to ensure a better understanding of the difficulties they have encountered.
“We need to create a fit for purpose system, a system of understanding that meets the needs of autistic individuals and their families to cope with the repercussions of Covid-19 and beyond.”
Autism NI survey can be completed here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/AutismPrivateMembersBillSurvey2020