The SNP Government has allocated an additional £204,967 to two specialist organisations, to help them support 47,000 people with autism across Scotland during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
£159,920 is to increase capacity in the Scottish Autism Helpline and £45,057 for the National Autistic Society to help people keep in touch online during lockdown.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP said:
“Autistic people find the extreme change in their daily lives more difficult to deal with, which is why we have fast-tracked this funding to improve the consistency and availability of support. These are unprecedented times and it is important autistic people know this support is there to help them and how to access it.
“This funding will help organisations provide autistic people and their families with a source of up-to-date information to manage their physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as reduce social isolation by helping them forge sustainable and meaningful relationships.”
Charlene Tait, Deputy CEO at Scottish Autism, said:
“During these uncertain and challenging times, our aim is to provide reassurance, guidance and support to autistic people and their families across Scotland.
“These extra funds will allow us to extend our Autism Advice Line offering, enabling us to increase our operating capacity to seven days a week, 8am to 8pm. We are all too aware of the impact this crisis is having on the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of autistic people and their families. This funding will enable us to reach out and support people at this difficult and stressful time.”
Nick Ward, Director at the National Autistic Society Scotland, said:
"We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for their work throughout this crisis to support autistic people and their families. With this funding we can drastically increase the number of online Social Groups, where people can meet and talk about the things that are important to them, form meaningful relationships and feel more connected.
“Our staff will also be on hand to offer support and tips around managing mental health and well being and importantly staying safe."
Additional funding of £159,920 over a four-month period will allow the Scottish Autism Helpline to open 8am - 8pm, seven days a week on 01259 222022.
National Autistic Society Scotlandwill use £45,057 to fully redesign face-to-face services onto an online platform, NAS Connect which will bring people together through film, books, arts, cooking, quizzes and computer games by facilitating social groups, coffee clubs and branch meet-ups that are unable to meet face to face at this time.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has recorded a video message in support of autistic people during the lockdown, acknowledging how especially tough the restrictions can be for them, as well as wider family and carers.