A new adult autism advice service has been launched in Ballymena.
The pilot service, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, is available to people aged 16 and over with a diagnosis of autism and will work in partnership with them and their families.
The Service is available from 1.30pm - 4.30pm each Tuesday in the Braid Museum and Arts Centre, Bridge Street, Ballymena.
It will involve one to one advice sessions and signposting to services across a range of agencies including housing and social security.
The service will also support individuals to develop a range of natural supports, including group support to help people cope with a diagnosis and self-advocacy to assist them towards independence and social inclusion.
Oscar Donnelly Director of Mental Health and Disability Services said: “The Trust is delighted to be piloting this essential service for people with autism offering support and advice on all aspects of their everyday lives. It is important that individuals are given the necessary support to allow them to reach their full potential and play an active role in community life. I would like to particularly acknowledge the support from our partner agencies and organisations in getting this service established here.”
With an estimated 20,000 people diagnosed with autism in Northern Ireland, the pilot service is designed to provide service user’s with better information and help in accessing support and services across agencies. The Service is person-centred with a multi-agency team on hand to provide advice and support on key aspects of daily life. Each session will be attended by staff in the Northern Trust, a member of staff from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) and a representative from careers advice or student finance at the Northern Regional Colleges. An Outreach Officer from Social Security Agency will attend weekly and a volunteer from Citizens Advice Service will attend one afternoon a month to assist anyone in relation to benefits available to them.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “The launch of this pilot coincides with the launch of the cross-Departmental Autism Strategy and Action Plan for Northern Ireland. I am delighted that one of the key recommendations in the Strategy – to pilot a multi-agency Autism advice and signposting service - is commencing, well in advance of its deadline.
“This new service should be celebrated as an excellent example of service improvement and inter-agency cooperation for adults with autism.”
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: “I welcome the involvement of my Department’s Careers Service in this pilot. We all have a responsibility to provide everyone with the support services to give them the best possible chance to avail of the employment and other opportunities that life has to offer. It is essential that every person in Northern Ireland, irrespective of their age or ability, can access the impartial careers guidance he or she needs to help them fulfil their ambitions and contribute to the local economy.”
For further information about the service please contact Heather McCarroll ASD Co-Ordinator on 028 2766 1335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org