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October 2020



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Many autistic people are still not receiving the good quality care they need, according to a new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator of health and social care services in England. The report, which is about the state of care in 2019/20, highlights the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the sector.

This simply cannot continue and underlines the urgent need to invest in mental health and social care support for autistic people:

The State of Care report is the CQC’s annual assessment of health and social care services in England, including those that cater for autistic people, over the past year. It looks at care both before the outbreak of coronavirus and during the pandemic. To put the report together, the CQC looked data gathered from inspections of services, along with other information including from people who use their services, their families and carers.

What the report says

One of the most important findings is that, the number of hospital inpatient wards for autistic people and/or people with a learning disability found to be poor quality has increased. Many autistic people continue to live in mental health hospitals, despite Government promises to change this. The report highlights that inspectors found poor care in many of these wards. Overall, the proportion of services rated as inadequate rose from 4% to 13%, which is extremely worrying.

The report also finds that as a result of the pandemic, existing problems in social care have been not only “exposed, but exacerbated.” These challenges included access to PPE, testing, staffing and less coordinated support than that available for the NHS. The CQC says that a long-term funding solution must be implemented for the social care sector, which remains in need of both investment and workforce planning. Whilst the Government has made short-term interventions to stabilise the system during the pandemic, the need for a longer-term plan still needs to be tackled and these issues must be “urgently” addressed. We strongly agree with this and are calling on the Chancellor to invest in the social care support that autistic people and their families need. 

Our response

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “This damning report shows a worrying increase in the number of hospitals found to be poor quality. This simply cannot continue. 

“Autism is not a mental health condition. It’s wrong that hundreds of autistic children and adults are living in mental health hospitals, often inappropriately, many miles away from home and unable to see family and friends.

“But without the right mental health and social care support in the community, too many autistic people really struggle, eventually hitting complete crisis and facing being put in a hospital that doesn’t meet their needs.

“The Government must put this right by investing in mental health and social care support for autistic people, and crucially reviewing the Mental Health Act so that autistic people aren’t inappropriately sectioned. Only this will end this vicious cycle.”

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