Over 11,000 people have signed an open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, calling on him to use his upcoming Spending Review to protect autistic people and their families from future waves of coronavirus, and to invest in support and services.
The letter was delivered by the National Autistic Society this week and urges the UK Government to commit to including autistic people and their families in their levelling up agenda.
“Autistic people and their families have been struggling to get the care, support and understanding they need for years and things have been made even harder by coronavirus. children and adults have been left completed stranded,” Caroline Stevens, chief executive of the National Autistic Society.
Following the charity’s Left Stranded report found that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has deepened established existing inequalities.
Caroline continues: “The inequalities that autistic people and their families face aren’t new – we’ve been highlighting them for years. But coronavirus has laid them bare and deepened them.”
Due to the increased levels of anxiety partnered with the uncertainty of the future, and a change of pace and routine to withdrawal of support from social care, school, education and mental health services, autistic people and their loved ones are feeling the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
Surveying 4,232 autistic people and families in the UK across June and July, the National Autistic Society found that nine in 10 autistic people worried about their mental health during lockdown; 85 per cent said their anxiety levels got worse.
This research was led by the National Autistic Society, as part of a project funded by the Pears Foundation, with a number of other autism charities supporting: Ambitious about Autism, Autistica, Scottish Autism, and the Autism Alliance, which is a coalition of 17 autism charities.
One in five family members responding to the survey had to reduce work due to caring responsibilities; seven in 10 parents say their child has had difficulty understanding or completing school work and around half said their child’s academic progress was suffering.
Caroline adds: “Thank you to the many thousands of people who signed our letter. The Chancellor must listen to all our voices and take urgent action, by using next month’s Spending Review to protect autistic people from future waves of the virus.
“This means investing in the support and services autistic people need, and ending the inequalities that have persisted for years.
“Only then can we start creating a society that works for autistic people and their families.”