Funding appeal towards autism initiative as Newcastle gets praise

Funding appeal towards autism initiative as Newcastle gets praise

5 September 2018

A CALL has been issued for more support for autism services across the district.

Ulster Unionist representatives Alan Lewis and Mournes councillor Jill Macauley want more cash invested in service provision following a recent meeting they had with senior officials from the Autism Initiatives organisation.

As a key first step, Mr Lewis and Cllr Macauley are keen for the South Eastern Trust to provide additional funding for service provision and more information to ensure people know where to go for assistance.

Both have praised the work of Autism Initiatives, with Mr Lewis congratulating the organisation’s staff and volunteers for ensuring a safe and secure environment for service users.

He revealed that during the recent meeting, discussions centred on current initiatives in Newcastle designed to make the resort the first autism friendly town in Northern Ireland.

“My party is keen for health officials to commit to producing and maintaining an autism services map, signposting parents and careers to the wide range of local services,” he said.

“I was delighted to hear about the ongoing training Autism Initiatives has committed to delivering for the retail and hospitality sector in Newcastle and encourage all employers to engage with the ‘every customer counts’ campaign and avail of training which will enhance staff awareness of the needs of those on the autism spectrum.”

Mr Lewis also expressed concern at suggestions that the Housing Executive is planning to cut funding which it provides to the so-called ‘support our care programme’ which helps adults in the supported living sector.

“Proposed cuts are reflective of overall reduction in departmental budgets across Northern Ireland.  Funding reduction highlights the need for a functioning Executive and we need to see an urgent return of devolution to ensure protection of services which benefit those most vulnerable within our society,” he added.

Cllr Macauley said Newcastle had always been very autism-friendly and was recognised locally and internationally as a leading autism destination.

She said Autism Initiatives provided supported living day care for 50 people in the area and helped employ 90 people in the resort.

“It is often simple, small steps of change which can make the world of difference for someone with autism,” she continued. “Newcastle is leading the way, and this is something we should be proud of,” she said.

“This is also an ongoing process where local businesses and amenities adapt so their services can be enjoyed by those on the spectrum and autistic people and their families feel welcome and are cared for in a sensitive valued way.”