My Lords, I support Amendments 88M and 92ZZM in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, and myself. Assessments must be carried out by assessors with the necessary training and expertise to understand the needs they are assessing. This point has been made time and again in this Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Low, also referred to the Autism Act. The Department of Health has provided clear direction that autism training is essential for community assessors to ensure that the needs of adults with autism are fairly assessed. Here I declare an interest as a vice-president of the National Autistic Society. The noble Lord, Lord Low, also told us of the too few local authorities that have awareness training in place— 70 out of 152 local authorities have still not got a proper awareness training in place as part of their equality and diversity training.
Crucially, a National Autistic Society survey found that one in three social workers did not have a good understanding of autism. This is, in part, because adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome can have less obvious, hidden needs that can be hard to pick up in any assessment. That is why the assessor must have the necessary training and expertise. Failure to assess needs can mean that autistic people and others with disabilities are denied the support they need to live independently. As we all know, this makes it much more likely that in later life they will have a significantly greater need for support.
We are simply asking in these amendments to ensure that the needs of people with autism and other conditions are expertly and properly assessed. In that way, one can ensure that people will have a good quality of life—the sort that we in this Chamber take for granted. We are not asking for much and I hope that the Minister will agree with that.