West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Welcome for £2 million investment in Autism services.

Published: 15 February, 2016

Sinn Féin Mid Tyrone councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald has welcomed a £2 million investment in autism services by Health Minister Simon Hamilton. The money aims to cut waiting lists for those awaiting autism assessments, the figure stood at 2,800 at the end of last year.

Welcoming the announcement councillor Fitzgerald commented:

"As I understand it this money will be targeted at reducing the waiting time for those awaiting autism assessments, which has grown substantially in the past number of years. As a result many of people have to wait for months before undergoing assessments, particularly many children and young people. In cases some young people have waited for over 12 months to be seen. This money will fund expanded teams in each trust area including clinical staff specifically trained in assessing Autism.

"These diagnosis are vital not only for the young people involved but for their families and for schools to access educational psychologists, occupational therapists and receiving the extra assistance of classroom assistants along with the help of the Autism service. It is vital that these children receive an early diagnosis to help not only in education but other aspects of social communication which is extremely difficult for these children to express. So an earlier diagnosis is extremely important. Families are being left in limbo with these children; many with complex needs and not knowing where to turn too, only to be held in a queue which is getting longer every month.

"This is good news for families and those directly affected by autism, or awaiting assessment. I hope that this announcement demonstrates a more robust approach from the minister to deal with this issue and enable quicker access to diagnosis services and support for those affected. I also hope the minister recognises that once the diagnosis is made additional funding must be made available immediately to the appropriate health workers in order to provide the support for all those involved. ENDS