Leading North East charity welcomes Government plans for autism training A PIONEERING North-East charity has welcomed Government plans to introduce mandatory autism and learning disability training for all health and care staff in England. The North East Autism Society (NEAS) has led the way in training organisations across the region in awareness of autism and other neurodiverse conditions. In November 2017, NEAS launched the UK’s first Autism and Neurodiversity Academy (ANDA) with the aim of providing flexible on-site training to help a wide range of organisations. High-profile organisations to have benefited from the training so far include Newcastle International Airport, the Metrocentre retail complex and several other shopping centres, plus a number of theatres. Whitley Bay Health Centre is one of the latest organisations to receive the training, with GPs, practice nurses and administration staff all attending to get a better understanding of how to support patients in need of extra help. Meanwhile, at the other end of the region, NEAS is forging a new partnership with Stockton Borough Council to launch toddler groups in Billingham, Thornaby and central Stockton to provide a relaxed, safe, and supportive environment for families affected by autism. Having led the way in the North East, NEAS is delighted at the Government’s announcement this week that could lead to all NHS staff receiving the training they need to support autistic people. The Government has launched an eight-week consultation on the plans, seeking the views of autistic people, their families, and professionals involved in health care. John Phillipson, Chief Executive of the North East Autism Society, said: Progress is undoubtedly being made in raising awareness of autism and other neurodiverse conditions, and support in society is increasing as a result. Through ANDA, we have been able to guide a range of North-East organisations so that they are better equipped to deal with this vitally important area of customer care. However, there is still a long way to go because people with autism and other neurodiverse conditions are still facing unacceptable challenges and inequalities, even though the Autism Act of 2009 demanded that all health and care staff should have the appropriate training. “That hardship cannot be allowed to continue and the Government’s proposals to finally enforce the requirements of the Autism Act are long overdue. “We look forward to these proposals being implemented after the consultation period so that all NHS staff receive the training necessary to adequately support people with autism and other neurodiverse conditions.” Words by Peter Barron.