We understand that the limits on going out and how we must behave when we are out, may be especially difficult for autistic young people and their families. These are important restrictions that are in place to help make us all safer. They will not last forever and they are not intended to make life really difficult for people who are autistic, those who have learning difficulties or other medical conditions.
Going out to help you stay well is important too. The government have recognised that some young people and adults and those supporting them need flexibility and differentiation on social distancing.
Below you can find information about reasonable adjustments included in Government Guidance for people with specific health conditions that may result in the need to exercise outside more than once a day and to travel to do this if necessary. The use of the term medical conditions in the guidance specifically includes people who are autistic and those who have learning disabilities.
Page last moderated: 30/04/20
Social Distancing and SEND Government Guidance
The Government Guidance on social distancing has been amended and clearer recognition has been made for individuals who may need to exercises outside more than once a day and to travel to do so in a safe familiar or appropriate place.
“You can leave your home for medical need. If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area - then you can do so. This could, for example, include where individuals with learning disabilities or autism require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day - ideally in line with a care plan agreed with a medical professional.
Even in such cases, in order to reduce the spread of infection and protect those exercising, travel outside of the home should be limited, as close to your local area as possible, and you should remain at least 2 metres apart from anyone who is not a member of your household or a carer at all times.”
This information comes from Guidance - Coronavirus outbreak FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions): What you can and can't do (Published 29 March 2020) : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do#can-i-exercise-more-than-once-a-day-if-i-need-to-due-to-a-significant-health-condition
Note: The “ideal” situation where this adjustment and need is identified in a care plan agreed with a medical professional may be become harder to arrange as NHS staff are re-deployed from their usual role and/or service to support front line NHS services with work related to managing the current pandemic.
It is important to note the use of the word ideally means this is not a legal requirement and if you do not have a care plan but have a health condition which fits the above category the guidance still applies to you in a way that is helpful.
Who may be able to help with writing and agreeing a care plan?
Young people or their parents or carers in Hackney could ask health professionals to agree and draw up a care plan that includes information about how being autistic might affect them during the current situation, why being outside might help, what else might help.
This could include getting helpful amounts of exercise to support you to regulate yourself and help with anxiety, not being expected to wait for long periods of time in a queue perhaps in a situation you may find overwhelming such as in a supermarket.
Your health care plan may also explain that you sometimes need someone with you to help you stay calm and do what you need to do.
If you do not know who the health professionals are in your school but are getting support from other teams in health services such as Targeted Health Outreach Team or CAMHS they could agree a health care plan for you. Your GP or doctor may also be able to agree your health care plan.
The Police Autism Cards and Passport scheme launched in July 2019 and was intended to help identify reasonable adjustments that may be needed for people who are autistic during involvement with police.
The scheme is the result of a collaboration between the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), City of London Police and British Transport Police.
It has been developed following extensive consultations with individuals with autism and their parents, the National Autistic Society, Autism Partnership Boards and other partner agencies and is supported by the National Police Autism Association.
“Autism is a complex condition characterised by social and communication difficulties. Having an encounter with police – whether as a victim, someone officers are concerned for the welfare of, or as a suspect – is an unsettling encounter for anybody, but for someone with autism, it can be extremely distressing.
It could be the confrontation with a stranger, or the idea of physical contact that triggers an adverse, nervous reaction in that person and potentially escalate the situation.”
Detective Superintendent Helen Lyons - Metropolitan Police Service
Previously Police Officers had no way of knowing whether someone was autistic and that this may explain behaviour arising from the condition especially in a time of stress.
More information about the scheme can be found here: http://www.npaa.org.uk/launch-of-tri-force-autism-alert-card-scheme/
How should an autistic person use the Autism Cards and Passports?
The Autism Card and Passport can be used in a number of ways. Both can be carried with you easily.
The idea is for autistic people to feel more confident about reporting crimes against them, to have more positive experiences when in contact with the police and to work out the best outcomes for all involved.
If you get lost, overwhelmed or need any assistance when you are out, you can show the Autism Card to an officer who will then be able to help you.
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, police can notify other professionals, such as ambulance crews – they will tell them that you are autistic and if needed, will inform your appropriate adult.
No. During the current pandemic it is not possible to request a new Police Autism Card and Passport from this scheme.
We did try to request some before lockdown but officers are supporting front line policing to help with the global pandemic and the building where these are physically held is not accessible at this time.
You will be able to apply for this scheme and use the cards and passports in the future.
Partners within the police service offer sincere apologies and thank the public for their understanding. They have supported our development of a local alternative.
What is the alternative during the pandemic?
To help local young people and their families partners from services including the Met Police, NHS, SEND education services, parents and carers have supported the development of a locally available Covid-19 supporting evidence letter for autistic young people.
During the last few weeks of the pandemic, Hackney has worked with partners from NHS health services, the Met Police, young people and parents and carers to produce a supporting evidence letter that you can show if helpful to officials or people in services if the need for extra understanding, help and support arises. This might including being stopped and asked questions by the Police about why you are out or if there has been a difficulty maintaining social distance while you are shopping.
This inicitive is aimed at children and young people who are autistic including those with Aspergers, parents and carers or support workers who may be out with the child or young person. The young person should have an identified need of autism. They do not need to have an Education, Health and Care Plan.
- The supporting evidence letter has Hackney Council, Homerton NHS and Met Police logos on to endorse it's appropriate use.
- The front page is in large font so it can be shown from a distance.
- It includes details and links to follow on information about the government guidance on separate pages that can be handed over for closer inspection separately from the front page with personals details on.
- It includes relevant service contact details.
How to request a Local Covid-19 lockdown supporting evidence letter...
You can request a copy of the Covid-19 supporting evidence letter by contacting a member of the following teams or services who will send you your own copy which will include your name. Choose the most relevant person involved in providing care or support related to your needs:
- Your School SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) or Inclusion Lead
- School Nurse: 0207 683 4991
- Health Visitor: 0207 014 7093
- Hackney Ark Resouce Centre coordinator: 0207 014 7006 / email@example.com
- Targeted Health Outreach : 0207 014 7088 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Children’s Occupational Therapy: 0207 014 7025 / huh-tr.childrensOTreferrals@nhs.net
- Children’s Physiotherapy: 0207 014 7025 / huh-tr.childrensPTreferrals@nhs.net
- Children’s Speech and Language Therapy: 020 7683 4262 / email@example.com
- CCNT (Community Nursing Team) : 0207 014 7096 / huh-tr.Hackneyccnt@nhs.net
- SENDIAGS (SEND Information and Advice Service) Service Coordinator: 07500 066 513 / SENDIAGS@learningtrust.co.uk
- Short Breaks coordinator: 020 8356 6796
- DCS (Disabled Children's Service) directly from your social worker or on: 0208356 6789
- SEND Business Support: 0208 820 7000 / option 4
- Your GP or doctor
What other options are there?
There are examples of different Autism Cards, not specifically part of the police scheme, or the current situation related to the coronavirus pandemic. In odinary times you can apply for or download and complete these to share if needed.
These help explain and easily show police officers, shop staff, people in health services, social services and youth services that you are autistic and because of this need extra understanding and support or some changes in how people interact with you.
Hackney's Autism Card scheme
There is a locally co-produced autism communications card developed with Hackney Autism Alliance's user engagement & consultation work group that can be shared as supporting evidence of the need for reasonable adjustments but during the current situation it is harded to get hold of these.
View cards or find out more: www.autistichackney.org/autism-card
National Autistic Society
National Autistic Society: I am autistic (download for printing and completion)
Appropriate Adults support people who appear to be aged under 18, or may be suffering from mental ill health or other mental vulnerability for example learning disability or autism. Young people aged under 18 years old and mentally vulnerable adults must be accompanied by an ‘appropriate adult’ when undergoing certain police processes and procedures in custody or when being interviewed under caution, either following arrest or during attendance at a voluntary interview.
The Appropriate Adult service for both young people & vulnerable adults living in Hackney is commissioned from The Appropriate Adult Service Ltd, a publicly funded, independent private company, with over 17 years’ experience of providing this service.
Appropriate Adults are called to the police station as an important safeguard, providing independent support to people being kept in custody, for questioning about a crime or in a related sensitive situation.
Phone: 0845 600 1528
Visual resources to help explain more about social distancing to autistic people
Info-graphics and short explainer from Nottingham University.
Resource credit: Nottingham Autism Police Partnership
Resource credit: National Autistic Society (document guide for police, professionals and adults)
Easy Read - Geting stopped by the police during lockdown (document / guide)
Resource credit: This is specific section from the LD Senate Easy Read Guide to Coronavirus and keeping busy.
The Guardian - news article on the recent legal clarification here.
Special Needs Jungle - article on the recent clarification here.
Bindmans Solicitors involved in the challenge - article here.