YP Comment: Autism delays are a betrayal of Jo Cox

IT was, prophetically, the late Jo Cox MP who first exposed the unforgivable length of time that it now takes to diagnose youngsters suffering from traits of autism.

Vicki Reedman with her son Lucas - they are among the families waiting an inordinate length of time for an autism diagnosis.

“Here is a crisis now so acute that some desperate parents are paying for help that by right they should be able to access on the NHS,” she told Parliament in March.

Then Mrs Cox was aghast that it was taking more than three years for children to receive specific support to help them, and their families, with behavioural challenges. Nearly six months later, it gives us no pleasure to reveal how local families are still waiting up to 1,053 days – the best part of three years – for a basic assessment, never mind a programme of care.

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To put this in context, official guidelines suggest the wait should be no more than three months. As the number of people on the waiting list grows by the week, no wonder families are in despair over an apparent lack of urgency; for example health chiefs in Leeds say they will be “working more efficiently” in a bid to meet national targets by next March.

Try telling that to people like Vicki Reedman who has already been waiting since June 2015 for her six-year-old son Lucas, who has awareness issues, to be properly assessed. Such families are enduring a living nightmare because the NHS is not only bereft of the resources, but basic empathy and humanity towards those requiring its support and expertise.

Perhaps those concerned should re-acquaint themselves with Mrs Cox’s heart-rending speech when she disclosed how the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, and subsequent support, had changed the life of a young man in her Batley & Spen constituency: “He said he wished he had been diagnosed sooner because, in his words “I always knew I was different, now I know why’.” Let’s hope that there are MPs prepared to take up the cudgels on behalf of their much missed colleague – and stand up for some of the most vulnerable members of society.

A64 upgrade is a national priority

IT WOULD be churlish not to welcome the extra £20m being made available for new train stations – it is official recognition that Britain’s railways do have untapped potential.

However it’s also important that this announcement does not fall into the category of Bank Holiday gimmick. On one of the busiest weekends of the year, £20m would not cover the cost of a feasibility study into dualling the A64 from York to Scarborough.

This is important – anecdotal evidence points to a surge in ‘staycation’ bookings in Scarborough, and nearby resorts, thanks – in no small part – to those forward-looking councils who have worked with hoteliers and tourism leaders to improve accommodation, visitor attractions and so on.

Yet there will still be people deterred from venturing to the coast because the A64 simply can’t cope with the volume of traffic. This is not new – there have been calls to widen the whole stretch of road since Malton’s bypass opened 38 years ago.

It’s also not straightforward – the route comes under the auspices of a multitude of local authorities and agencies. And then there’s the cost – Yorkshire’s councils, with the best will in the world, simply don’t have the brass to commit to a scheme on this scale. For this reason, local leaders need to start convincing Ministers that this project is now a national priority.

Olympic legacies: Join Team GB for the day

AS SPORTING success stories go, they don’t come any bigger than Britain’s unprecedented medal haul at the Rio Olympics when this country’s competitors exceeded all expectations.

Yet, while Team GB’s champions were quick to credit the National Lottery for providing support and world class coaches, this legacy will only fulfil its potential if more families follow the Olympic creed and strive to be ‘faster, higher, stronger’ when it comes to their own lifestyles.

This is why today’s pioneering I Am Team GB programme of events is so important. Even ITV is briefly going off the air in order to encourage people to visit their local sports club and try out some of the Olympic sports which so captivated the country. The potential benefits to the nation’s health and wellbeing were best summed up by Alistair Brownlee after the Leeds triathlete successfully defended his Olympic title. Imploring others to start running, cycling or swimming, he said: “You never know where it might take you.” Now that Team GB is open to allcomers, there’s no reason why others can’t pick up the baton.