‘Thorough audit’ needed for autism carers

Autism carers are at “breaking point,” a leading charity says, calling on a Department of Health audit of families who are waiting for a carer’s assessment.

Autism NI says hundreds of families in Northern Ireland are in desperate need of services and that an audit will reveal the extent of the problem.

In a statement on Monday the charity said the “historic under-funding” of families with a child affected by the disability needs to come to an end:

“There has been an historical gap of provision that has meant many parents with a child who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder are not entitled to statutory social care support because their child doesn’t have an accompanying learning disability.

“Therefore without statutory social care support at the point of diagnosis, the vast majority of families remain unaware of disability provision and entitlements.”

According to the charity, over 80% of autism carers in Northern Ireland are on anti-depressants. Family Support Manager Paula Hanratty from Autism NI says many parents are at breaking point.

“We know from calls to our helpline that there are hundreds of families who are desperate for services, families who are breaking point,” Ms Hanratty told UTV.

“Families who are not recognised and who are not getting services are invisible. Autism is a very invisible disability.

“What we are calling on is equal services for families who have a child with autism in comparison to other disability groups.”

Ms Hanratty says a “thorough audit” is needed on the number of carers waiting to receive assessment.

“The Trusts are constrained by the lack of funding and we’re calling on the department of health to carry out an audit of families that are waiting for carers’ assessment.

“We want the Trust and the department to sit up and take notice of the desperate plight of families out there.”