Children with autism face a “shocking lack of consistency” in the quality of council services across the UK, according to autism education charity TreeHouse.
Figures on autism services from 35 local authorities obtained by the charity under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that children were being diagnosed for the condition at widely different ages. Depending on where they lived, some children were being diagnosed under the age of three – in line with expert advice – while others were made to wait until the age of seven.
Forty per cent of the responding councils admitted they did not hold information on the average diagnosis age in their area. In addition, 24% said they did not know how many children with autism lived in their area and 54% did not know how much money they spent on children’s autism services.
A TreeHouse survey of parents of children with autism also found that one in ten had been forced to move house in order to live in a local authority area with better services. Ninety per cent of parents said they felt isolated by their situation and 78% said that they were not currently being given sufficient support.
Isolated and confused
TreeHouse said that the lack of consistency in autism care risked “destroying the future chances” of tens of thousands of children. Chief executive Ian Wylie added: “There is also an inexplicable lack of knowledge about even the most basic facts on the size and scale of the issue in their area. Given how much of a postcode lottery there is across the UK, it’s not surprising that the parents we’ve spoken to feel so isolated and confused.”
The charity launched a new website today, talkaboutautism.org.uk, to provide information for parents. The initiative has received the backing of author Nick Hornby. He said: “When my son was diagnosed with autism there was a total lack of information and advice on what we should do next. It seems that little has changed – and that is a national scandal.”