21 Oct 2016

Autistic man abandoned by services, says mother

2:12 pm on 21 October 2016

The family of a young man with autism who spent four nights in prison feel let down by IHC, which was meant to support them, his mother says.

Prison bars

Photo: RNZ

The 18-year-old man was kept at a secure unit at Whanganui Prison after he allegedly assaulted his mother.

No care service responded to calls to find him a place until he appeared in court yesterday where Judge Gerard Lynch called the situation "outrageous".

He asked authorities to place the young man in a hospital facility where he would stay for 10 days.

The man's mother told Morning Report she had to call police last Sunday to deal with him when he became violent, head butting and kicking her.

She asked officers to charge him because she had been told by professionals that this would "flag him in the system" and get him the help he needed.

"But unfortunately that completely backfired on everybody and he got put in the jail system because there was nobody out there to step up and say we need to help this mum and this boy," she said.

The young man had been receiving respite care, after-school and holiday care from IHC's IDEA Services until September, she said.

Her son's difficult behaviour escalated when it cut back its care for him, which disrupted the 18 year old's routine and caused more behavioural problems.

"They withdrew everything from him. He had respite care once a fortnight, that went to once a month. He had holiday programme every holidays where he'd go 9 til 3. They took that away and gave him 2 hours, 3 days a week."

She said everything was reduced dramatically and her son had become agitated and aggressive, which put more pressure on the rest of the family.

At a time when she needed more support, she received less, she said.

"I've been coping and dealing with all this behaviour for 18 years and I just feel that it's time that he needs to move on and get a bit more independence and live away from home."

"I just can't cope with the behaviour anymore, it's just slowly getting worse to the point where I am just scared of my son."

She said she also feared for the safety of the other members of her family.

Autism New Zealand said yesterday, after hearing of the case, that there was a shortage of support, services and funding for autism sufferers and their families.

Following her son's court appearance and his placement in a hospital facility, the young man's mother said there was light at the end of the tunnel but it was frustrating that her son had to go through this ordeal to get the care he needed.

An IHC spokesperson said the organisation was unable to comment on the case last night.

IDEA Services also said it could not comment on individual cases - but the level of service could change, when a patient's circumstances changed.

It said it sometimes provided emergency support but services in Manawatu were currently at full capacity.