Social workers assessing adults with autism will be expected to to have a good understanding of the condition and its presentation, under statutory guidance issued by the government last week.
Practitioners will be expected to have a good understanding of how autism may present across the lifespan and across levels of ability, the developmental trajectory of autism and good practice on autistic adults’ ability to assess risk.
The expectations were set out in the revised statutory guidance under the Autism Act 2009 published last week by the Department of Health.
Expectations of practitioners
Compared with the 2010 statutory guidance, the 2015 version sets more detailed expectations of what practitioners assessing the needs of adults should know.
It says local authorities, who must follow the guidance unless they can demonstrate good reasons for deviating from it, should ensure that assessors have a good understanding of:
- how autism may present across the lifespan and levels of ability, how these presentations are defined and diagnosed, and relevant pathways and screening tools;
- the common difficulties faced by adults on the spectrum and their families, including social and economic hardship;
- the developmental trajectory of autism;
- the impact of autism on personal, social, educational and occupational functioning, and interaction with the social and physical environment;
- current good practice guidelines, such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s quality standard on autism, and local diagnostic and care pathways;
- current good practice on an individual with autism’s capacity to assess risk;
- good practice guidance on post-diagnostic support and intervention.
Councils should also ensure that assessors and other social workers working with adults with autism receive ongoing specialist training, says the guidance.
The revised guidance incorporates local authorities’ new care and support under the Care Act 2014, which come into force today.
Under regulations made under the act, local authorities must ensure that any person carrying out a needs assessment has the skills, knowledge and competence to carry out the assessment in question. The regulations also specify that local authorities must consult an expert in relation to an individual’s condition or circumstances where it considers that the individual’s needs require it. The autism guidance states that this means that where an assessor lacks experience of autism, the council must ensure that an expert is consulted.
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Like the 2010 guidance, the 2015 version makes clear that people diagnosed with autism should be offered a needs assessment by the relevant local authority. The guidance says that NHS clinical commissioning groups should take the lead on developing diagnosting services in each area, but that councils and CCGs should ensure that there is a “clear trigger” from diagnosis to an assessment by adults’ services.
However, the guidance also makes clear that the right to assessment is not dependent on a formal diagnosis of autism but the appearance of needs for care and support, as set out in section 9 of the Care Act.