A card people with autism can carry to ensure they are given appropriate support by emergency services will be launched today at Merseyside Police HQ.
Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) have collaborated with the Cheshire Autism Practical Support (ChAPS) and Autism Together charities to launch the Autism Attention Card.
This initiative helps people with Autism Spectrum Condition to receive appropriate support in an emergency situation and provides training for staff to engage more effectively with people with hidden vulnerabilities.
Autism is one of the fastest growing developmental disorders and a government survey suggests that 1 in 45 children aged 3-17 have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
The Attention Card is designed to be carried by a person with a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition or Asperger's Syndrome.
Details of the cardholder’s difficulties can be recorded onto Merseyside’s Police’s intelligence data system, flagging them as vulnerable.
The initiative has been backed by the region's Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, who said: “This is such a simple tool that can bring real benefits to people living with autism.
"It is not easy always for police officers and other frontline responders to identify if somebody has autism. By carrying the Attention Card, emergency services staff will be able to instantly identify that somebody is autistic and ensure they get the additional and specialist support they need.
"Protecting vulnerable people is one of my priorities for Merseyside Police, so I’m pleased to see this scheme, which has been recognised as best practice by the Home Office, rolled out across Merseyside."
Sergeant Mike Brumskill said: "Merseyside Police is determined to provide the best quality of service we can for people with autism and their families. This proven initiative will help protect vulnerable people within our communities. The positive response from autism support groups and partner agencies has been fantastic. If you are eligible for the card or know someone who would benefit from it, I would urge you to apply.
“The Attention Card scheme has been a great success in Cheshire since its launch with numerous examples of good practice in often difficult and distressing circumstances. Hundreds of people carry the card and autism awareness training given to police officers has helped many people, giving reassurance to them and their families.”
Jo Garner, founder and managing director of ChAPS said: "We are delighted that this initiative is being rolled out to other police forces, especially Merseyside Police and MFRS as our geographical neighbours.
“It means for those people who carry the card, they can be assured they will be understood by the police and receive the appropriate support.
“People on the autism spectrum cannot always understand complex or abstract questions, and can appear to have disregard for authority by not being able to give clear adequate explanation for their behaviour, or even understand the situation they find themselves in. This card is vital in helping both the cardholder and police to ensure situations do not become difficult."
To apply for the card visit www.cheshireautism.org.uk/news/attention-card.
For more information about the charity and how it can help your family (with or without diagnosis) please visit www.cheshireautism.org.uk.
Image (L-R): The PCC with Thomas Case (YAG member), Jo Garner CHAPS (Cheshire Autism Practical Support), Cheshire Dep PCC Ms Sareda Dirir