May 13, 2021:NI Belfast Live: Autism assessment waiting list hits 4,500 in Northern Ireland https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/autism-assessment-waiting-list-hits-20574355
Some families report waiting for more than 4 years for the first step to diagnosis Almost 4,500 children in Northern Ireland have been recorded as waiting for an autism assessment - and there could be more. The latest figure taken from December was revealed during a Stormont Health Committee meeting on Monday, where the Health Minister Robin Swann was urged to create a longer-term autism strategy in Northern Ireland. Stormont heard from a number of MLAs who urged Mr Swann to address the current dire need of families of children and adults on the neuro divergent spectrum and to look to the future of burgeoning numbers of cases. For the quarter ending December 2020, a total of 1,010 across all six health trusts referred for a referral autism diagnosis. Of those children, a total of 623 are still waiting to be seen and 387 children have been received a diagnosis. In the same period, a total of 4,495 children were waiting are currently waiting to be assessed. Of those 1,457 had been waiting for over a year in the Belfast, Northern and Western Trusts. Other families reported facing a wait of two and a half years and feeling forced to pay up to £1,400 to receive a private diagnosis. Autism NI’s CEO Kerry Boyd said she knows of families forced to wait for four years for help. A motion put forward at Stormont by Colm Gildernew MLA on waiting times for autism assessment in Northern Ireland on Monday and was met with unanimous agreement for the Minister of Health to bring forward a new autism strategy to meet family and individual needs…. “We listen to families on a daily basis and the current system is simply not working. The waiting times for an autism diagnosis are completely unacceptable…. The UUP Health Spokesperson, Alan Chambers spoke in support of the Private Members Motion and said the numbers of children waiting for assessment has doubled since 2016. He told the Assembly: “There is no doubt that autism services have never been under as much strain as they currently are, like so many parts of our Health and Social care system. However, they were already struggling before Covid and this is an issue that has transcended the terms of many Executive Ministers. “For instance in September 2016, when the current deputy First Minister was the Health Minister, there were 2,325 children waiting for an autism spectrum assessment. “Whilst that’s obviously lower than what it is today, the reality is that it was four times the number waiting only five years before that in 2011….