Local political representatives have met with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust to discuss ongoing work in helping children and families affected by autism.
North Down MLA Peter Weir and Strangford MLA Michelle McIlveen, along with Jeffrey Donaldson MP, discussed a pilot programme carried out by the trust which has helped reduce diagnosis times and given support to families.
Mr Weir said it was important that that success “is built upon rather than allowed to roll back”.
“We are acutely aware of the financial pressures that are in place throughout the public sector including health, but failure to renew, what in any event is not a large sum of money, as well as having a very detrimental effect on the families of sufferers of autism, makes no firm economic sense,” he said.
“Early diagnosis and in particular early support for sufferers is the key to ensuring that resources are not wasted and the public purse doesn’t have to pick up a much greater bill at a later stage.
“In particular, I would appeal to the trust to ensure that there is adequate family support from day one.
“For families that have had a member diagnosed with autism it can be a very distressing and bewildering time, and action needs to be taken both to provide the right kind of support and advice.
“Reducing this level of help would be a retrograde step, and the message of the need for such support for families will be taken to the chief executive and beyond that to the minister (Michael McGimpsey).
“There must be focus both on the families effected, and also on those diagnosed at adult ages, who are often neglected by the system.”
A spokeswoman for the trust said it worked pro-actively with Autism NI in piloting a new family support service, and has reduced waiting times for diagnosis and intervention services.
“We welcome the opportunity to discuss new areas of funding,” she added.