landscape shot of the Houses of Parliament
We are really pleased that the Government has listened to the voices of autistic people and their families and amended national guidance on how often some people can leave their home during the coronavirus outbreak.

The rules originally said that no-one could leave their home for exercise more than once a day, and they had to stay close to home. We told the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that going outside for exercise is very important to the health and wellbeing of many children and adults on the autism spectrum. Sometimes, autistic people may need to go to quieter places, away from other people, even if these places are further away from their home. They may also need to be accompanied by a carer or support worker who is not someone they live with.

People got in touch to tell us that they were worried about this. Some said they had been stopped by the police for going out with carers, or judged by members of the public for going out too often. We shared these experiences with the Government, along with other charities and campaigners. Lawyers acting for two families with autistic children also challenged the Government on this.

The Government has now published new guidance making 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.

We have told the Government that they must now make sure that the police know what the guidance says about autistic people, so that people aren’t challenged inappropriately or made to feel unnecessarily anxious.

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “Our own careworkers and those of our members, have been challenged by both the public and police officers about social distancing when they are doing their best to support autistic people to exercise and get out and about.

"Even seemingly small changes can feel catastrophic to autistic children and adults, so the coronavirus pandemic has been exceptionally challenging for the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their families. Going out for a walk is an important part of many autistic people’s routine and changing that may jeopardise their health and safety.

“Some autistic people might need someone to go with them on a walk or a trip to the shops and careworkers may need to link arms with them, simply to keep them safe. Some could need more than one person with them. If members of the public or police rush to judge, they might think this is someone ignoring the rules of social distancing. But it’s actually vital for that person’s safety and wellbeing.

“It’s so important that the public and the police understand how this worldwide pandemic is affecting all autistic people, and how they can help.”

For more information on autism and coronavirus, visit our resources hub.