People living with autism and learning disabilities in South Yorkshire will now have access to a free new initiative which aims to make it easier to navigate social and stressful situations.
Autism alert cards enable police and other emergency services workers to communicate with autistic residents more effectively, helping those on the autism spectrum feel comfortable in what could be stressful or frightening situations.
On application, you provide details about your sensory experiences, interests and communication needs. On presenting the credit card-sized card, emergency workers have this information readily available, enabling them to communicate better and offer the most appropriate support.
Following a successful pilot launch in Rotherham last year, the initiative has now been rolled out across the whole of South Yorkshire.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber from South Yorkshire Police, said: “After a successful launch in Rotherham it is fantastic to see this innovative and much-needed scheme roll out across the whole of South Yorkshire.
“Everyone should feel safe when they are out and about. What may seem like an everyday situation to most, can suddenly become an overwhelming one for others. These cards will enable the emergency services and partners to give the appropriate help and support required by each individual.”
Russell Wells, branch treasurer at the National Autistic Society’s Rotherham branch, said: “It’s fantastic that South Yorkshire Police is making these autism alert cards available to people across the whole region.
“Autistic people can find communication difficult and can become anxious and overwhelmed, particularly in a stressful situation like an encounter with the police. These cards mean police officers will know if someone is autistic and be able to adapt their communication and actions, to ensure they treat autistic individuals fairly.”
Alongside the cards and in partnership with the local authorities across the region, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley have also joined the national safe places network. The nationally-recognised logo can be seen in locations such as libraries, cafes, shops and leisure centres. If you feel overwhelmed, scared or worried when you are out and about in the community, you can visit an identifiable safe place to access the right support. In Doncaster, Safe In Doncaster operates in the same way, although it is not part of the national scheme.
Councillor Rachael Blake, cabinet member for adult social care at Doncaster Council, said: “Autistic people make a huge contribution to Doncaster’s families, communities and businesses. Small changes to make our borough more autism-friendly can have a big impact.
“The autism alert card will make a massive difference to autistic people who find themselves in a crisis or stressful situation. Personalised information on the alert card will ensure cardholders receive support tailored specifically for their needs. This will mean that the difficulty is resolved more quickly and the person can get back to their usual life, living, studying and working alongside fellow Doncaster people.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “Being a victim of a crime or accident can be a stressful experience for anyone. But for someone with autism, it can be particularly disorientating and frightening. It is vitally important police and emergency services know a person has autism and this card will be key in explaining this and providing a personal emergency contact.
“The introduction of this card will enable police officers, and others, to quickly identify a cardholder’s condition, improve understanding of their needs and offer them the best possible support.”
Anyone with a formal autism diagnosis can apply for an autism alert card. These can be ordered by contacting your local National Autistic Society branch via this link, or email South Yorkshire Police at: Autism_Alert_Card@southyorks.pnn.police.uk.
You can find out more about the Safe Places National Network at: https://www.safeplaces.org.uk/