A multi-disciplinary approach used in Derry to support people living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might be a solution for under-pressure services across the border.
Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine said families of children on the ASD spectrum in the South were in cases inappropriately being told to contact gardaí because support services were finding it difficult to meet demand.
She said: “The only recourse for the professionals now is to call in the Garda.
“Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder, ASD, have been told to call the Garda. I have been dealing with a case like this where the child is as young as four. I know that is exceptional but children grow up with symptoms of ASD and they can have difficulty finding treatment.”
The Dublin-based senator said the authorities in the South were in danger of dragging vulnerable people through the criminal justice system inappropriately.
She said the cross-agency approach to support services used in Derry might point a way forward for the southern authorities.
“The difficulty is we are criminalising people with a vulnerability, with many ending up in the prison system or Garda stations,” she told colleagues in the Seanad.
“A Seanad team visited a hub last Monday in Derry that is dedicated to a multidisciplinary approach to the matter.
“I will put down a Commencement matter on the subject at some stage in order that we can learn more about it,” said Senator Devine.
She said it was unacceptable that members of An Garda Síochána were being called upon as front-line responders because other services could not cope.