In 2009 the Autism Act was passed as the first piece of disability specific legislation in the UK. In 2010 Rewarding and Fulfilling Lives – the implementation strategy from the Act was published.
The strategy focuses on five things:
- Making sure that more individuals understand about autism.
- Making it easier for adults to get a diagnosis of autism.
- Ensuring adults with autism can choose how they live, and get the help that they need to do this.
- Helping adults with autism to find jobs.
- Helping local councils and health services to write plans so that the adults with autism who live in their area get the help that they need.
The Autism Act statutory guidance puts duties on local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS Foundation Trusts in order to meet the needs of individuals with autism living in their area.
Amongst other actions, the guidance clearly states that local authorities and the NHS should:
- Provide autism awareness training for all staff
- Must provide specialist autism training for key staff e.g. GPs and community care assessors
- Cannot refuse a community care assessment based solely on IQ
- Must appoint an autism lead in their area.
- Have to develop a clear pathway to diagnosis and assessment
- Need to commission services based on adequate population data.
In April 2011 the Government published a list of the 10 outcomes that should be achieved if the autism strategy and statutory guidance can be judged as a success. These are:
- Adults with autism achieve better health outcomes
- Adults with autism are included and economically active
- Adults with autism are living in accommodation that meets their needs
- Adults with autism are benefiting from the personalisation agenda in health and social care, and can access personal budgets
- Adults with autism are no longer managed inappropriately in the criminal justice system
- Adults with autism, their families and carers are satisfied with local services
- Adults with autism are involved in service planning
- Local authorities and partners know how many adults with autism live in the area
- A clear and trusted diagnostic pathway is available locally.
- Health and social care staff make reasonable adjustments to services to meet the needs of adults with autism.
These ambitious objectives will be best achieved through partnership working between local authorities, the NHS, the voluntary sector and individuals directly affected by autism. Overview and Scrutiny Committees are ideally placed to support this process.