Belfast Telegraph

£2m boost to autism services announced by Health Minister

Autism services in Northern Ireland will get a £2m budget boost per year to help tackle waiting lists and improve access to support service, the Health Minister has announced.

The move comes after 4,000 people signed a petition within 24 hours earlier this month demanding that "failing" autism services be improved.

It emerged more than 2,000 children in Northern Ireland are waiting for an autism diagnosis - sometimes for more than two years - leaving desperate families calling for urgent action to reform the service.

In announcing the extra cash, Simon Hamiliton said:“Since 2010 the number of referrals for autism assessments has nearly doubled from 1,500 to 2,800 at the end of last year. Despite the hard work of many dedicated professionals, we are struggling to match pace with demand.

"Many children and young people are waiting more than thirteen weeks for an assessment. This is not acceptable and I am determined to get these waiting lists down.

“That is why I am today announcing increased investment of an additional £2m for Autism services across Northern Ireland. This money will fund much needed new capacity to ensure there is quicker access to diagnostic services and that, crucially, there is more support for young people and their families.”

“This new money will fund expanded teams in each Trust to improve assessment times, including clinical staff specifically trained in assessing Autism. In addition, these resources will be used to expand Autism specific support services, and improve access to wider services such as: Speech and Language Therapy, Community Paediatrics and Occupational Therapy. "

The minister added: “In tandem, I will continue to work with the Board and the Trusts to improve our processes and remodel our services to further drive down waiting lists and improve access to high quality services."

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