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Local guidelines on those with autism leaving home during lockdown need updated, says Blair

Local guidelines relating to people with autism or learning disabilities being able to leave their homes more than once a day to exercise during the COVID-19 lockdown need to be updated to reflect UK Government advice, Alliance MLA John Blair has said.

Mr Blair was speaking after raising the issue at today’s meeting of the Policing Board. It follows the UK Government amending its guidance on the lockdown, stating people with autism and learning disabilities can now leave the house for exercise more than once a day, as well as travelling outside their immediate area to do so, and being accompanied by a carer or support worker if needed.

However, the Autism NI charity has said a number of families of those with autism have been stopped by PSNI officers while out and told to return home.

“The UK Government’s new guidance is welcome and I know it is appreciated by many of those families of those with autism,” said Mr Blair.

“But from the reports from Autism NI, it is clear the guidance has not been filtered down to all the PSNI officers on the ground, resulting in confusion and families with a perfectly legitimate reason for being out of the house being told to go home.

“I raised this issue today to point out the anomaly being experienced by people here, which is not happening in the rest of the UK. Local guidelines need updated to reflect that. Many of those with autism need their routine, whether there is an ongoing pandemic or not.

“I was reassured the PSNI will try to implement that on the basis of fairness, necessity and reasonableness, and I will continue to scrutinise the police to ensure they do just that.”