The Scottish Government has announced more than £200,000 in funding for autism organisations to help people struggling with the coronavirus lockdown.
With an estimated 47,000 autistic people in Scotland, health secretary Jeane Freeman explained they have been particularly affected by the “extreme change” to their lives caused by the lockdown measures.
Almost £160,000 will be given to charity Scottish Autism to enable their helpline to operate seven days a week, while more than £45,000 will be used by the National Autistic Society to provide more online support.
Freeman said: “These are unprecedented times and it is important autistic people know this support is there to help them and how to access it.
“This funding will help organisations provide autistic people and their families with a source of up-to-date information to manage their physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as reduce social isolation by helping them forge sustainable and meaningful relationships.”
Deputy CEO of Scottish Autism, Charlene Tait, said: “During these uncertain and challenging times, our aim is to provide reassurance, guidance and support to autistic people and their families across Scotland.
“These extra funds will allow us to extend our autism advice line offering, enabling us to increase our operating capacity to seven days a week, 8am to 8pm.
“We are all too aware of the impact this crisis is having on the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of autistic people and their families.
“This funding will enable us to reach out and support people at this difficult and stressful time.”
The helpline will now be open every day between 8am and 8pm, and can be reached by calling 01259 222 022.
Nick Ward, the National Autistic Society Scotland director, said: “We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for their work throughout this crisis to support autistic people and their families.
“With this funding we can drastically increase the number of online social groups, where people can meet and talk about the things that are important to them, form meaningful relationships and feel more connected.
“Our staff will also be on hand to offer support and tips around managing mental health and well being and importantly staying safe.”