‘Autism Passport’ rolls out across Sussex
An ‘Autism Passport’ has launched in Sussex during Autism Awareness Week to support autistic people’s communication with services. The A5 passport and wallet-sized card have been co-produced in a collaboration with autistic people, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Sussex Police and other services.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT) provides specialist mental health and learning disabilities services to adult and children in Sussex, and young people across Hampshire. SPFT’s Neurodevelopmental services offers specialist diagnostic assessment for neurodivergent adults in Sussex.
Dr Dawn Howard, Neurodevelopmental Services Clinical Lead at SPFT, said: “We know that minor adjustments in the physical environment and how people communicate with autistic people in a crisis can make a significant difference to them being able to access the support they need. The roll out of this project is going to benefit autistic people when they come into contact with services.”
The passport, which has been created specifically for Sussex after success elsewhere in the country, enables autistic individuals to state what reasonable adjustments and specific communication needs they may have. This means they can be supported, particularly if they are in a distressing situation, such as coming into contact with the police. It provides tips on effective communication with autistic individuals, along with key information and contact details of an appropriate adult to help them if they require it.
Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, Sussex Police Disability Champion, said: “I am very pleased to announce that the autism passport is now available for circulation throughout Sussex Police. The passport has been developed in association with Sussex Partnership and other key stakeholders and is designed to help organisations like ours, recognise and appropriately respond to the varied needs of neurodiverse people and communities that we engage or interact with on a daily basis.”
Inspector Kaj Bartlett, Sussex Police Neurodiversity Champion and local coordinator for the National Police Autism Association, (NPAA) said “As an organisation, Sussex Police is always keen to learn and work in ways to provide better communication, interaction and outcomes for everyone. Therefore, anything which helps Sussex Police Officers and staff to engage with members of the public, in a way which meets specific individual needs is a really good thing. The NPAA is a National Police Officer and Staff Support Network, with co-ordinators in most Forces.
“Our work is to support colleagues and communities through increasing awareness and understanding of Neurodiversity, including the creation of more inclusive practices. The NPAA was instrumental in producing the autism passport for use elsewhere and I am proud to work with colleagues and partner agencies to now bring it to Sussex.”
Tanja Conway-Grim originally came across the project as a member of the National Police Autism Association. She explained: “I managed to get hold of about 300 copies of the original autism passport from the Metropolitan Police, who had co-produced it with autistic people and British Transport Police, NPAA and City of London Police, and distributed those in Sussex to a variety of services and organisations. The response in Sussex was overwhelmingly positive. I felt it would be a good idea to have our own local version with the logos of local organisations on it. If you recognise the logo from ‘your’ organisation or the service you work for, you are more likely to take it seriously. Effective communication is crucial for people on the autistic spectrum and this passport will help to achieve this.”
Inspector Jason Wilson from the Sussex Police Criminal Justice and Custody Team explains: “Within our Sussex Police Custody Centres we are constantly looking for ways to improve the experience for detainees. With updated training inputs for our staff around Neurodiversity as well as features such as dimmable lighting solutions and bespoke custody guides, we aim to reduce stress and anxiety, in order to make the whole process as smooth as possible.
“The introduction of distraction objects, noise-reducing ear defenders, as well as the occasional visit from the #CustodyDoggo all continue to build upon our ongoing work. The Autism Passport is another welcome addition to being able recognise and support individual needs within the custody environment.”
The autism police passport can be downloaded here.