Police in Scotland urged to be sensitive to new lockdown guidance for autistic people

Section: Policy into PracticeType: News Item Date Published: 16th April 2020

National Autistic Society Scotland has welcomed Scottish Government changes to the ‘Stay at Home’ rules.

National Autistic Society Scotland has welcomed changes to the ‘Stay at Home’ rules from Scottish Government which allow for autistic people who need to leave home more than once a day to exercise or travel beyond their local area should they need to for health reasons.

However, a number of autistic people and families with autistic children have contacted the charity reporting that they have been told to go home by Police, or threatened with fines. While we have heard some positive stories of the police responding appropriately, we have also heard from families reporting that Police seem either unaware of the change in guidance or are insensitive to it.

National Autistic Society Scotland has written to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Iain Thomas Livingstone asking that police officers across Scotland are made aware of the changes to the ‘Stay at home’ guidance.

Amended Guidance issued from the Scottish Government makes it clear that, if you’re autistic or have a learning disability, you can leave your home more than once a day and travel beyond your local area if this is important to your health. If you need carers with you, they don’t have to stay the two metres apart from you that is usually required by social distancing. However, it is still important to be careful and only go out when you really need to, to reduce the chance of getting ill or infecting other people.

Nick Ward, Director of the National Autistic Society Scotland said:

“The lock down has fundamentally changed life and this can be very challenging for Scotland’s 58,000 autistic people, where for many, exercising in a safe way is very important to their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

 We welcome the amended rules from the Scottish Government but are extremely concerned not all Police officers are aware of the changes or are interpreting them correctly. We have today written to Police Scotland and have urged Government to promote the new guidance appropriately so all are aware.”  

Caroline from Dundee, a mother with an autistic child 

“The lock down has been really difficult for my son and the stress can lead to some very challenging behaviour when he gets frustrated and upset. It’s great the rules and changed for autistic people and driving to the nearby park (it’s unsafe for him to walk along the road) where he can feed the ducks and play safely is an absolute life line for us and I can see the difference it makes to his mental health – it calms him.

was really upset when recently the Police told us to turn around otherwise they would fine me. They said they needed to see a GP letter. I offered our social worker’s phone number but they refused.

Our GP can’t provide a letter as understandably they are busy and to be honest it seems like a waste of medical professionals’ time during this pandemic.

 I know other parents who were planning on finally getting out as the rules had been changed but are now too scared so are still stuck at home, often with very distressed children. Even just the possibility of being stopped by Police and not managing to follow through with a plan will put off many families with autistic members.” 

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