Spending watchdog calls for better autism services


Most councils and NHS bodies in England have no idea how many adults with autism live in the area they serve, according to a report by the public spending watchdog.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report accuses the government, local councils and the NHS of lacking the understanding of autism necessary to plan and deliver services.
It calls for better planning, increased awareness of the condition and more targeted support for those adults with autism who do not have learning difficulties.
The NAO publication, Supporting People with Autism through Adulthood, came three weeks after the government threw its weight behind a private members’ bill that aims to transform services for adults with autism. The government is also consulting on its first adult autism strategy.
The report says about three-quarters of councils do not have a specific strategy for commissioning services for adults with autism, while nearly two-thirds admit their services are limited. And four in five GPs say they would like more training to help them identify and treat patients with autism.
The NAO report calls for more specialised employment services, and better training for those providing employment support and administering benefits. It also says the Department for Work and Pensions should help employers realise the benefits of employing people with autism.
According to the report, three quarters of councils say that adults with autism who do not have learning difficulties find it difficult to secure support. The NAO said providing specialised health, social care and employment services for this group could end up saving money.
The report estimates that if such services identified just eight per cent of “high functioning” adults with autism, it could eventually save £67 million a year.
The National Autistic Society called on the NAO’s “critically important findings” to be reflected in the government’s autism strategy.
Meanwhile, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism has published a report on its inquiry into the transition into adulthood of young people with autism.
It found that planning for their future often takes place far too late, with agencies failing to work together effectively, and called for better training for professionals, accessible information and independent advocacy.
The report found “pockets of good practice” but concluded that, for many young people with autism, “transition is not working”, which has “serious repercussions for the individual, their families, and for public expenditure”.

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