Autism Strategy (Adults)

Health written statement – made at on 29 April 2009.

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (Care Services; Minister for the East Midlands), Department of Health

I am today launching a consultation on the development of an autism strategy for adults.

We are committed to delivering real change for adults with autism through this strategy but, before deciding on the final content, we are inviting contributions via the consultation from people whose lives are affected by Autistic Spectrum Conditions including Aspergers (autism), whether personally or professionally.

The consultation strategy document has benefited from input from an external reference group comprising people with autism, family, carers and health and social care professionals involved in front line delivery of services. Together, we have identified five key themes—health, choice and control, social inclusion, employment, and raising awareness and training. These themes were chosen as representative of the main concerns that we hear from people with autism, and as such, are the areas that we believe can deliver the greatest change. However, there is general recognition that these themes do not cover all the issues and we are using the opportunity afforded by the consultation to invite people to inform the developing strategy by letting us know about their own direct experience and identify their priority areas for action.

We have made clear our determination to drive improvements in the national health service and local authority services so that people with autism experience real improvements to their everyday lives. We believe that this action is best taken without recourse to legislation, which risks restricting the flexibility of service commissioning and provision. Our priority is to ensure the strategy on adults with autism takes account of the views of people with autism and their families, alongside those of professionals and practitioners in the field.

In addition to the consultation and subsequent strategy we are spearheading activity in a number of areas that will enable us to understand and meet the needs of adults with autism; and drive service improvement. These include:

addressing issues relating to the collection of data on adults with autism; research on the prevalence of autism among adults; research into the transition of young people with autism to adult services; evidence-based good practice guidance on choice and control from the Social Care Institute of Excellence; work with professional bodies to take action to address training issues, such us the work being taken forward by Skills for Care on new knowledge sets to support people with autism; and links with the implementation of the learning disability strategy, Valuing People Now, which will secure improved support for adults with autism who also have a learning disability.

We are also taking forward a range of initiatives aimed at children which are designed to benefit the way services are commissioned and delivered for everyone. These include:

the Child Health Strategy with its focus on early engagement and early intervention;

Aiming High for Disabled Children to transform services for disabled children, including those with autism; increased funding to the Autism Education Trust (AET) to improve commissioning of services for children with autism; improvements to training and support for professionals working in mainstream education; and new regulations and statutory guidance for Children and Young People's Plans.

This Government believe that people with autism have a right to live life as full and equal citizens. We are committed to developing a strategy that supports the delivery of real change for adults with autism. To support delivery of the commitments in the strategy we will issue statutory guidance, subject to consultation and assessment of benefits.

The consultation period will run from 29 April until 15 September; a total of 20 weeks. This extended consultation period will maximise people's opportunity to consider, discuss and respond and will help us gather a range of examples and evidence about existing good practice and local delivery approaches to inform the proposals to be contained in the final strategy and assess the likely benefits and costs.