Specialist team aims to fill social care gap for adults with Asperger’s

Supporting people with Asperger's syndrome through mental health or learning disability services has not worked for service users or carers, leading Hertfordshire council to set up a specialist team to deliver tailored support.

Team manager Alison Carpenter and Asperger's adviser Mark Dixon

Hertfordshire council has developed a specialist social care team for people with Asperger’s syndrome, which went live in April 2013. 

The team has been developed in response to feedback from people with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism, and their carers, who have been saying consistently they do not fit into traditional learning disability and mental health services and they want to be supported in a different way.

The team will initially take over the social care of people who are currently having support provided by either the council’s learning disability services or mental health services run by Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. They will also take on new referrals from within the county.

The team is made up of a multi-skilled staff group which consists of:

  • a team manager;
  • four social workers, one of whom will take the lead on transition cases for young adults aged 18 to 25;
  • a transition co-ordinator who will work in partnership with young people aged 16 to18, their families and other agencies to ensure that there is a clear pathway for each young person as they approach adulthood;
  • an employment officer: many people with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism have said they find employment difficult to access and this can damage their mental health and well-being;
  • an expert by experience, who has Asperger’s syndrome and works alongside people to help them understand their condition and signpost them to the right services and support where necessary;
  • two community care officers, who support people to achieve agreed outcomes and make greater use of local services and resources in the community.

The team works with people who meet our Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) criteria – critical or substantial – although individuals whose FACS status is uncertain will also be supported or signposted to other services or local social groups that have been commissioned to provide preventive support.

The team supports future planning, housing, further education, employment, day time opportunities and financial problems, and aims to support people to achieve their goals in life and move towards greater independence, reducing the amount of support they need in the future. This will be achieved by being flexible in the packages of care offered, which will be both person-centred and outcome-focused, providing support when people need it.

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In setting up the team, Hertfordshire council has worked closely in partnership with the county’s joint commissioning unit, which commissions health and social care services on behalf of the council and the two clinical commissioning groups. We will also be working closely with Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust during the handover of people to the new team and will continue to work in partnership with the trust to ensure any clinical needs are met.

The team is developmental and it is hoped it will evolve to meet not only people’s needs now but also their changing needs over coming years. This exciting development has involved recruiting various staff from diverse backgrounds who will bring the experience, talent and creativity to enable adults and young people with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism to experience positive outcomes and greater inclusion.

Alison Carpenter is manager of the Hertfordshire Asperger social care team and Mark Dixon is the council’s Asperger adviser

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