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Couple with autism left isolated after losing support in lockdown

Written by on 26/10/2020

A couple with autism say they were left without the “vital physical help” they needed during the first Covid-19 lockdown in March, which has not been reinstated since.

Julie Sharp, aged 34, and husband Sam live in Whiston, Rotherham, and both have autism.

Pre-lockdown, the couple had six hours of personal carers per day, to help with day-to-day tasks such as cleaning and getting out and about.

However, when the coronavirus lockdown came into force in March, the carers’ visits stopped and were replaced by three phone calls a day from social workers, along with calls from care agencies and volunteers.

Julie said she struggled to find information to help her understand the restrictions and adjust to the sudden huge changes, such as how to get food.

Like many autistic people, Julie found sudden changes hard so the disruption to her routine it triggered a lot of anxiety.

Julie emphasised that she and her husband were not getting physical support during and after lockdown. Without any help to plan their weeks, including cleaning, taking part in activities and following their interests, they were unable to replicate their normal routine and were left stressed.

Without any help to understand the new government rules, and guidance they had to cope on their own and ended up scrolling through social media in search of answers, anxious about what would happen if they couldn’t find them.

And without the physical support to go out and about in their community, as Julie is in a wheelchair, they became isolated.

Julie said: “We have low confidence and low self-esteem due to the coronavirus pandemic and social services reducing our support.

“We are waiting to be allocated a new care agency. This makes us feel anxious, nervous and apprehensive about the future.

“The pandemic has been bewildering, isolating, different, boring, difficult, unnerving, a change, new, challenging and many more words.”

Six months on, Julie and her husband are still waiting for appropriate support to be put in place so they can finally go out and about in their community and be reunited with their friends and family.

A Rotherham Council spokesman said: “While we cannot comment in detail on individual customer needs we can say that we are in regular contact with Julie and we have a very good understanding of her and her husband’s needs. We are providing the appropriate support and we continue to work with this couple as their needs and requests change.”

The National Autistic Society published a report in September, which found that people with autism were seven ties more likely to be chronically lonely, and six times more likely to have low life satisfaction in June and July.

The charity called on the government to invest in autistic people’s futures, ahead of the Spending Review this autumn.

Find out more here.