Lockdown rules have been eased for people with autism and learning difficulties - here’s what you need to know

People with autism and learning difficulties will now be allowed to exercise more than once a day.

The updated guidance from the UK Government was amended last Wednesday (Apr 16), the day before the nationwide lockdown had been extended by a further three weeks.

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Previous UK Government guidance had told non-essential workers to only leave their homes once a day for exercise or to shop for basic necessities.

Reports from The Guardian state the amendments came after lawyers in England argued that the policy was “unlawful and discriminatory” to people that required more time outside for their mental well-being, due to certain health conditions.

What does the new guidance say?

The new government guidance states that those with specific conditions, such as autism and learning difficulties, who need to leave the house in order to maintain their health, will be able to do so “two or three times each day.”

“This could, for example, include where individuals with learning disabilities or autism require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day”, it reads.

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However, this should ideally be in line with an agreed care plan advised by a medical professional.

Can I travel further than my local area?

The new rules have also clarified that those with autism or specific health conditions are allowed to travel further than their local area, and more than once a day.

However this should be limited as much as possible and also “ideally in line with an agreed care plan”.

Do social distancing rules still apply?

The guidance also reiterates the social distancing rule that you should remain two metres apart from other individuals who are not part of your household at all times in order to reduce the spread of infection.

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However, this does not apply to your carers who can remain in close contact with you even if they live separately.

Confusion over Wales

Although the new advice has been issued on the official UK government website, the gov.wales website does not mention the amendments for people with autism.

Additionally, a Welsh Government spokesman confirmed that the Welsh government's guidance "differs slightly from other parts of the UK," and that First Minister Mark Drakeford was "considering some changes to these measures".

Speaking to Wales Online, Margaret Hay, mother to five year old Rhys, who has been diagnosed with autism, said "I cannot imagine why the same guidance doesn't apply in Wales, I hope it's just a delay."

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What has been the response?

There has been criticism from autism charities around the unclear language used in the guidance - something which is particularly challenging for people with learning disabilities such as autism.

Scottish Autism said some examples of the phrasing required clarity, for example the guidance that “ideally they should have a care plan agreed with a medical professional”.

The charity has pointed out that not everyone with autism has such a plan, but emphasises that exercise is still a crucial element for their general well-being.

Scottish Autism is now working alongside the NHS to ensure more accessible, easy to understand guidance is available.