On Wednesday 21 July, the government launched a new multi-million pound strategy to improve the lives of autistic people. The five year strategy was developed following engagement with autistic people, their family and carers. The Autism Strategy aims to tackle the inequalities and barriers autistic people face so they can live independent and fulfilled lives. Backed by nearly £75 million in the first year, it aims to speed up diagnosis and improve support and care for autistic people.
What does this mean for Autistic children and young people?
The funding includes £40 million through the NHS Long Term Plan to improve capacity in crisis services and support children with complex needs in inpatient care.
It will support autistic children and young people through better access to education, more help to get into work and in preventing avoidable admissions to healthcare settings.
Aims of the programme are to:
- Improve understanding and acceptance of autism within society: Developing and testing an initiative to improve the public’s understanding of autistic people.– both the strengths and positives as well as the challenges, working with autistic people, their families and the voluntary sector. This will help people recognise the diversity of the autistic community; that every autistic person is different. It includes improving understanding of the strengths and positives of being autistic, as well as the challenges people might face in their daily lives and how distressed behaviour can manifest itself.
- Strengthen access to education and support positive transitions into adulthood: Testing and expanding a school-based identification programme based on a pilot in Bradford from 10 to over 100 schools over the next three years. Early findings from the pilot show children are being identified earlier and getting support quicker.
- Support more autistic people into employment: Improving the accessibility of job centres for autistic people, to get them the right help to find jobs or employment programmes.
- Tackle health and care inequalities: Providing £13 million of funding to reduce diagnosis waiting times and increase availability of post-diagnostic support for children and adults, and address backlogs of people waiting made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Build the right support in the community and supporting people in inpatient care: Providing £40 million as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to improve community support and prevent avoidable admissions of autistic people and those with a learning disability, and £18.5 million to prevent crises and improve the quality of inpatient mental health settings.
- Improve support within the criminal and youth justice systems: Reviewing findings from the Call for Evidence on neurodiversity, and developing a toolkit to educate frontline staff about this, and the additional support people might need
Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford said:
“Many people who have autism face unacceptable barriers in every aspect of their lives – in health, employment and still too often in their education. I’m proud that the new Autism Strategy will, for the first time ever, also consider how to better support autistic children and young people’s access to education.
“A huge part of how we can address the inequalities that these children and young people face is by increasing our awareness and understanding of their needs, and tailoring the support available to them. Working closely with the healthcare services, we can level up outcomes for autistic young people in generations to come.”
Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, said:
"we welcome the additional support for autistic children and young people and look forward to the strategy being implemented. We also would like to see the additional focus on workforce, training and awareness for autistic children providing a baseline for all children with additional needs, regardless of diagnosis".
This strategy will align with wider government work through the National Disability Strategy and the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) review. The government will ensure issues relevant to autistic people are considered as part of these programmes of work.
More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-strategy-for-autistic-children-young-people-and-adults-2021-to-2026