Special Educational Needs: Autism

Department for Education written question – answered on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will provide guidance to schools and colleges on good SEN support for children and young people who are on the autism spectrum.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will develop a model of what good social care looks like for children and young people on the autism spectrum.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department is committed to promoting effective special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support within schools and colleges, and good social care provision for all, including autistic children and young people. The department has issued guidance that encompasses all forms of SEND.

The SEND Code of Practice (2014) places a duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to support all pupils with SEND, including those with autism. Support should be focused on the needs of individual children and young people, which can vary enormously even for those who have the same condition and where they may have more than one condition. This means that the educational interventions that may be effective for one child will not necessarily work for another with the same diagnosis. This need for a flexible and child-centred approach is why, as a department, we do not prescribe specific guidance on supporting particular conditions.

In order to support schools and colleges to put in place good practice for supporting autistic children and young people according to their individual needs, the department have, since 2011, funded the Autism Education Trust to deliver autism training to over 239,000 education staff, to provide resources for practitioners and education settings, and to develop communities of practice to facilitate mutual support and shared learning in good support for autism.

In terms of ensuring good social care practice, all children and young people, including those with autism, should have access to the support they need to keep them safe, ensure their wellbeing and overcome challenges to achieving their potential, as informed by the Children Act (1989), Children and Families Act (2014) and Care Act (2014). Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018) sets out how local authorities should provide effective, evidence-based services to protect and promote the welfare of children, including children with autism.

There are several developments currently underway, which will be of benefit to autistic children and young people (and their families). The department is working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care to produce an all ages Autism Strategy which will outline how education, health and social care systems will work to improve support for, and reduce inequalities experienced by autistic people. Alongside the Autism Strategy, a major review of the SEND system, announced in September 2019 and due to report in spring 2020, is aimed at improving support for children with SEND, including those with autism.

We recently announced a £780 million increase to local authorities’ high needs funding, boosting the budget by 12% and bringing the total spent on supporting those with the most complex needs to over £7 billion for 2020-21.

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