Care services minister Phil Hope today published a consultation on what will become England’s first strategy for adults with autism.
It will run for 20 weeks and seek views from people with autism, their families, carers and those involved in delivering services.
The National Autism Strategy will be published at the end of the year. Ministers have committed to issuing statutory guidance to ensure the final strategy has “teeth” and is put into practice at a local level.
Five key themes
The consultation covers five key themes: health, social inclusion, choice and control, awareness raising and training for staff, and access to training and employment.
“People with autistic spectrum conditions should have the same rights and freedom to enjoy life as everyone else,” Hope said.
Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society and chair of the strategy’s external reference group, backed the consultation. “After months of campaigning, the government has given adults with autism an unprecedented opportunity to have their say in a strategy which could make a real difference,” he said.
“It is important that as many people affected by autism as possible take part to help shape the final strategy and the action that is needed at a local and national level.
“Without the right support, autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect, so I urge the government to reaffirm their commitment to giving the strategy the legal force, which is absolutely necessary to deliver real change.”
The consultation follows the NAS “I exist” campaign, which found a lack of support had caused at least one in three adults with autism to suffer serious mental health difficulties.
NAS has published its own blueprint today for what it wants from the national strategy.
The charity’s recommendations include autism teams in each local area to form a one-stop shop of expertise in diagnosis, assessment and support, and the development of national accredited training schemes to improve professionals’ understanding and knowledge of the condition.