‘Champion’ move in autism support

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TEAMS of autism “champions” are set to be created in the Capital to plug “significant gaps” in services for those with the 
condition.

Under new plans, dedicated trainers would work with police and health staff, as well as social care and housing officers, to boost awareness and support for residents whose autism is less visible as they do not have a learning disability.

The move is one of a raft of measures being considered to address weaknesses in autism care, with a council-led drive to increase supported housing and work opportunities also due to be explored.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city’s health and social care leader, said: “Edinburgh is fortunate to have some good services for people with autism but there is room for improvement, especially for those with autism who do not have a learning 
disability.”

Care leaders said the new plans had come as recent figures showed a five-fold increase in the number of youngsters aged nine to ten who had been diagnosed with autism.

They said measures being considered would lead to better help for those with the condition, improvements in life quality and more informed carers. It is estimated that there are 4850 people with autism living in Edinburgh, of which 2400 do not have a learning disability.

“It is vital that we provide the right level of support to those with autism and their carers,” said Cllr Henderson.

“I look forward to seeing the results of this consultation, which will help us to get it right for people with autism throughout the city.”

Parents have welcomed the drive to improve standards of care and support.

Sue McLernon, 50, from Seafield, whose children, Danielle, 21, and Shaun, 24, have autism, said: “I think it’s fantastic that they are looking for opportunities to bridge the gaps in what they’re offering.

“Every adult and child who has autism is completely different – there’s a massive spectrum nowadays.

“Anything that can be done to improve opportunities in employment is to be welcomed. There’s not really a facility out there at the moment for those who need to live in a supported environment, so that would be beneficial.”

Children and families leader Councillor Paul Godzik said: “We recognise the need to look at this issue particularly, and that there are gaps. That’s why we’re looking for discussion with those affected by autism and their families, and we look forward to hearing their views and responding to them.”