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First Published Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Helping Hand

By National Autistic Society (NAS)
Published Monday, 8 December, 2008 – 18:53


For the first time, all local authorities in England have been rated and ranked on their approach to adults with autism.


The online table, published by The National Autistic Society (NAS), reveals an astounding postcode lottery where only one local authority has a system to find out how many adults with autism are in their area.


The NAS I Exist campaign, launched in February this year, revealed a desperate reality for adults with autism where two thirds do not have enough support to meet their needs and at least one in three are experiencing severe mental health difficulties as a result. In response the Government demonstrated a major commitment to improving the lives of thousands of adults with autism by revealing a raft of new measures building to a landmark national adult autism strategy. Many local authorities, however, have been slow to act, meaning very little has changed for some individuals with autism and their families.


This urgently needs to be addressed.



The NAS has, therefore, rated local authorities on their progress in two key areas, which the I Exist campaign identified as essential to planning and improving services to meet local need:


1.      148 out of 149 local authorities do not have a system to find out how many adults with autism are in their area. However, 27% have stated that they are planning to address this issue.
2.      64% do not have a named team or individual with responsibility for autism in line with Department of Health recommendations. Just over a third of local authorities are following Government guidance in this area, although a further 11% have acknowledged the need for further action.


Adults with autism told the NAS they felt isolated and ignored and were heavily reliant on their families, yet the majority of local authorities continue to exclude this vulnerable group of people. Without an accurate picture of how many adults with autism there are in the area, services and support cannot be planned effectively to respond to local need.


We want to see local authorities taking a robust approach to identifying and recording people with autism across their services. Many aren’t even making use of what existing data they have on this front. All schools have to record the number of children with autism and we want to see local authorities pass that information onto adult services, so support can be planned for those children in adulthood. If local authorities are to truly recognise local needs, it’s crucial they proactively engage with those people who are not currently receiving services but may well need support.


There remains a worrying lack of responsibility for meeting the needs of people with autism. Autism is a developmental disability, but support for people with the condition tends to be delivered either from a learning disability or mental health team. People with autism frequently fail to qualify for support from either team or find they are pushed back and forth between the two, often receiving little or no help from either. This exclusion from support increases isolation and can escalate to mental health problems and other serious difficulties. The lack of leadership on autism within local authorities exacerbates this issue. Many more local authorities are addressing this, by appointing a named team or individual with responsibility for autism. However, it’s disappointing to see some have been very slow to implement this government guidance from 2006.


The NAS strongly welcomes the expansion of leadership, capacity and expertise on autism within the Department of Health with the appointment of a specialist autism advisor. However, we would like to see guidance on autism become law, so that a “should do” becomes a “must do.” We are currently asking MPs to back a draft Private Members’ Bill, which aims to ensure a brighter future for the half a million people with autism in the UK by compelling local authorities to recognise and fulfil their responsibilities towards them. The autism community has received a major boost in that both the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat parties have pledged their support for the draft Autism Bill should one of their MPs be selected in the Private Members’ ballot.


Overall, the response to the I Exist campaign has been overwhelming. It is positive to see some great examples of good practice among those local authorities who are working hard to transform the lives of people with autism and their families and we celebrate this. We are also working hard to support those who have further to go. This includes publishing a guide to assessing and supporting adults with autism for social care staff and developing a guide on good practice for local authorities. Our online table is designed to track progress and the NAS is, therefore, inviting local authorities to keep us informed of developments to improve their ratings. Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition and without the right support it can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect. We will keep campaigning until we see change at ground level.


For further information on the local authority table or to support the Autism Bill visit www.think-differently.org.uk/campaign.

Source: http://www.egovmonitor.com/node/22486


Local Authority Support for Autistic Adults


As part of our I Exist campaign we asked all local authorities in England if they have a system in place to record the number of adults with autism in their area and if, in line with Department of Health guidance, they have appointed a named individual or team with responsibility for autism.


With the support of thousands of campaigners who have contacted their local authority to raise these demands, we have now received a response from over two thirds of local authorities and today we publish their responses in our progress table. In this table, progress is indicated according to the following key:


  • *green indicates progress in the area in question
  • *amber indicates a recognition of the issues and a willingness to address these
  • *red indicates no evidence of progress in the relevant areas
  • *purple indicates that we have not yet received a response from the local authority.

Do have a look at how your local authority is ranked, and read what they have to say about services where you live. Let us know whether you agree with what is said.


If your authority has not yet responded, contact them and ask them to do so.


Source:   http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1665&a=18259



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