MPs call for improved autism services


Many adults with autism are being left to “fend for themselves” because of a lack of appropriate services, according to a report by a group of MPs.

The report by the Commons public accounts committee, Supporting People with Autism through Adulthood, has added weight to demands for wide-ranging improvements to services.

It follows a report of the same name in June by the National Audit Office (NAO) and repeats many of its recommendations.

And it comes as a government-backed autism bill begins its Lords committee stage, while the first national adult autism strategy for England is due early next year.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee, said the autism strategy was an “excellent opportunity” for the government to describe how it would implement the committee’s recommendations and those of the NAO.

Leigh said the transition from children’s to adult services was “critical” for people with autism but was currently “like being cast adrift”.

He blamed this on a “chronic lack of information”, as well as poor planning, data sharing and coordination between health, social care, education and employment services.

Among other recommendations, the committee calls for targeted support for those adults with autism who do not have learning difficulties, and improved autism awareness among staff in health, social care, benefits and employment services. 

The committee also says more must be done to increase the number of people with autism in work and to improve supported employment provision.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “Adults with autism have been telling us for some time that they are frequently misunderstood and discriminated against, whether it’s trying to get a diagnosis, a job or access to health and social care.

“Thousands are experiencing serious mental health difficulties as a result and just 15 per cent are currently in full-time paid employment.”

He said the government’s autism strategy was “one of the best opportunities we have ever had to tackle the routine inequality” experienced by people with autism.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the report came at a “crucial time”, with the autism strategy, the autism bill, and a government commitment to spend £600,000 researching the prevalence of autism among adults.

She said: “Together this will help create a new approach which directly reflects the needs of people with autism and their families and will drive up standards of services.”

A formal government response to the recommendations will follow “in due course”.

15 October 2009