Health written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is on assisting those who have been diagnosed as autistic; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

The Government's policy is that appropriate services should be provided for children and adults with autism according to each individual's needs.

Most children with autism will need high quality support from health, education and social services. They should receive this through an integrated system. Our recently published Green Paper "Every Child Matters", sets out proposals to integrate children's services through the development of children's trusts and the appointment of local authority directors of children's services.

We are also developing the children's national service framework (NSF), which will set new national standards for the national health service and social services. Services for disabled children will be a key part of the NSF, which will include care pathways/exemplar diagrams illustrating optimum approaches to delivering services in a number of different areas. We have already announced that autism will be used as an exemplar.

Children with autistic spectrum disorders are also benefiting from the programmes we are introducing to improve family support services for disabled children. The Quality Protects programme to improve children's social services has made disabled children a priority area. From 2001–02 to 2003–04, £60 million from the children's services special grant has been earmarked for services for disabled children and their families—£15 million in 2001–02 and 2002–03 and £30 million this year. Quality Protects management action plans show that more family support services are being provided, particularly home based respite care and sitting services.

Our White Paper, "Valuing People", directly covers every adult with autism who also has a learning disability. Implementation guidance, issued in August 2001, makes clear that adults with Asperger's Syndrome or higher functioning autism are not precluded from using learning disability services, where appropriate, and may require an assessment of their social functioning and communication skills in order to establish their level of need. By bringing together a wide range of local statutory agencies, Valuing People gives us the scope to improve opportunities and services for people across the autistic spectrum.

People with autism are benefiting from funding of over £250,000, which the Department made through the Section 64 Scheme of Grants to Voluntary Organisations between 1999–2000 and 2002–03. We are currently devoting further funds over three years to the National Autistic Society project, "Independence and Autism: Good Practice for Service Providers". This will support the development of new services to enable adults with autism or Asperger's Syndrome to live independently.

People with autism will also gain, along with others, from the investment we are making to improve standards in health and social care services. In particular, they will benefit from the NHS Plan, the mental health NSF (which covers the mental health needs of adults with autism) and fair access to care services. We will continue to review what more needs to be done for all people affected by autistic spectrum disorders.

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