EXTRA funding is being ploughed in to reduce waiting times for autism diagnosis in the Stockton area.

Waiting times have been reaching four years or more in Stockton, and autism charity Daisy Chain alongside Dr Paul Williams, MP for Stockton South, have been fighting for fairer and faster assessments.

Now a new funding initiative has been approved to reduce waiting from four years to under a year.

Stuart Dexter, chief executive of Daisy Chain, which is based in Norton, near Stockton, said: "This is fantastic news for all the families affected by autism in Stockton.

"We know how much the families we support can struggle to get the right care and support so not having a waiting time of up to four years will make a huge difference to them.

“We have been working with Paul to help get a fair deal for families and on behalf of Daisy Chain, I visited Westminster last year to help inform his parliamentary debate. Hopefully, this now means the distress caused to families in waiting for an autism diagnosis and being able to access support, will be alleviated.

“I congratulate Paul on this news and I know the many families out of the 2,000 we support, who don’t yet have a diagnosis, will be delighted with this news.”

The extra funding will come from Stockton Council and Hartlepool and Stockton CCG and will allow for additional staff to be recruited to ensure that all children on the current waiting list in Stockton and Hartlepool will receive their assessment within a 12-month period.

Labour's Dr Williams welcomed the news as a step in the right direction and said: "Families have been waiting for far too long for autism assessments."