New Service will benefit Adults with Autism


A new information and signposting service that covers a wide range of information needs for adults with autism was launched today by Health Minister Jim Wells.

A new information and signposting service that covers a wide range of information needs for adults with autism was launched today by Health Minister Jim Wells.

The Belfast Adult Autism Advice Service (The BAAAS) ‘First Stop Shop’ will address needs including education, training and employment, social benefits, housing and promoting wellbeing.

Speaking at the Launch in Belfast’s Central Library, Health Minister Jim Wells said: “This service will provide individuals with ‘on the day’ information, opportunities to meet with other individuals with autism; and the opportunity to access post-diagnostic support through group sessions.

“I and my other Ministerial colleagues are committed to providing the best possible services and support to those within our society who are most vulnerable.

“People with communication or social difficulties which come within the autism spectrum, or other disadvantage, need to know that government services, and society in general, haven’t forgotten about them.

“Like everyone else, adults with autism need to access a range of advice about their health and social care and all the other statutory, and indeed voluntary, services that are part and parcel of everyday life. This service will go a long way to providing this.”

The Belfast Adult Autism Advice Service ‘First Stop Shop’ will offer information, advice and guidance every Tuesday from 1.30pm – 4.30pm at Belfast Central Library commencing 6 January 2015.

The service is available to individual’s aged 16 years and over.

It is acknowledged that there are a large number of adults, estimated at 1.1% of the population aged 18-plus who are likely to be on the autism spectrum, many of whom have never sought any diagnosis, or specialist support to meet life’s challenges.

The launch of the Autism Adult Care Pathway in June 2012 sought to address that and provide guidance to professionals, and to adults and families affected by autism. This Pathway aimed to cover the identification and diagnosis of autism, ongoing assessment and access to interventions and services for adolescents and adults of all ages with autism. The Cross-Departmental Strategy an Action Plan launched last year, and now this local advice and support service, seeks to build on that.

Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey MLA, said: “I am fully committed to the Autism Strategy and to ensuring that my Department delivers on its commitments within the Autism Action Plan including the training of just over 2000 Social Security Agency staff who deal with the public. The figures for benefit uptake continue to improve with an additional £14 million in 2013/14 being generated, helping over 4000 people. My Department is continuing to work to ensure people with autism receive those benefits to which they are entitled by strengthening partnerships with civic and community partners, such as the Belfast Adult Autism Advice Service.”

The Health Minister concluded: “Considerable and significant progress has already been made in the development of autism-specific diagnostic assessment, early intervention and family support services in Northern Ireland.

“Despite the challenge presented by a considerable increase in referrals, the Autism teams and other staff in Trusts are working hard to deliver this crucial service. They are to be commended for their efforts in sustaining and promoting this much needed service.”