Autism research severely under-funded, report finds

Just £3.70 is spent on autism research for every person with the condition in the UK, compared with cancer research that has £1,000 spent for every person with the disease, a report out yesterday has found.

New Philanthropy Capital, which advises charitable donors, said the low level of funding was “shocking” compared with the scale of the problems caused by autism. It cited forthcoming research that showed the condition costs £28bn a year in burdens on families, social services and education, and in the loss of employment.

About 540,000 people have autism in the UK, said the study, with just 6% of adults with the condition employed. A quarter of affected children had been excluded from school and just under half of parents with autistic children experienced mental health problems.

The report said government funding accounted for 86% of autism charities’ combined £175m income, but it was “often insufficient, irregular and does not cover vital areas”. The report outlined a significant role for private donors.

Service development was being impeded by a lack of  understanding about the causes of autism, how it influences brain development and its interaction with other conditions. The report called for more funding to increase research, and improve services for parents of autistic children.

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