The National Autistic Society (NAS) is, today, celebrating a crucial win for the half a million children and adults with autism in the UK. In response to political pressure from Cheryl Gillan MP's Autism Bill, the Government announced a new raft of measures that when fully implemented could help to address the shocking lack of autism services which leaves people affected by the condition feeling isolated, ignored and often at breaking point.
Cheryl Gillan MP said; "It was critically important to me that my Private Members' Bill should cover an area that ordinarily would be overlooked -today's announcement is a testament to the weight of support from my colleagues and autism campaigners. Without the right help autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect, so I will keep campaigning until I hear the Government pledge to fully support people affected by autism in Parliament. The real test will be in how they implement this package of measures in the long term."
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS said; "The failure of many local authorities to recognise the needs of people with autism made it absolutely necessary to try and create an autism law. Today, thanks to the overwhelming level of support galvanised by Cheryl Gillan MP's Autism Bill from our campaigners, across all the political parties and the 15 other autism charities we have been working with; we have achieved our major political goals. This is a landmark victory which could also have a far wider reaching impact on others in the disabled community. We warmly welcome the announcement and look forward to hearing the Government categorically reaffirm their commitment to transforming the lives of people affected by autism when the bill is debated in Parliament on the 27th February."
Proposals announced by the Government respond to demands made by Cheryl Gillan's Autism Bill which will, when fully introduced, hold local authorities legally accountable if they do not provide appropriate support for children and adults with autism.
Measures outlined should :
Improve local information on the number of children and adults with autism and ensure effect transition to adult services
The majority of local authorities do not have a clear idea of the numbers of people with autism in their area, which therefore means their needs are excluded in the planning and commissioning of services. The Government's proposed amendments to the regulations for Children and Young People's Plans will legally require local authorities to collate and share data and information on disabled children with other agencies. This could see a huge sea change in the way the needs of children with disabilities, including autism, are recognised and met and ensure that there are services in place to help them reach their potential in adulthood. 40% of adults with autism currently live at home with their parents and are heavily reliant on them for support.
Tackle the chronic lack of support for adults with autism
Research for the NAS I Exist campaign found that at least 1 in 3 adults with autism are experiencing mental health difficulties due to a lack of support. In response the Government committed to publishing a national adult autism strategy later this year. In a crucial development, as of today, this will now also place legal duties (subject to the necessary consultation process) on local authorities to address the barriers to support faced by adults with autism. The way in which adults with autism receive services at ground level could also be dramatically improved as there should be regional and local leadership in place to deliver the strategy. The Government will also work to ensure that Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (the main tool commissioners use to inform service planning and commissioning strategies) cover autism.
- Cheryl Gillan's Autism Bill is backed by The National Autistic Society, Wirral Autistic Society, Autism Research Centre, TreeHouse, Hampshire Autistic Society, Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society, Research Autism, Autism Anglia, The Wessex Autistic Society, Autism Education Trust, Autism Speaks, Autism West Midlands, Autism in Mind, Autism Initiatives, Sussex Autistic Community Trust and Tyne and Wear Autistic Society.
- In 2008, the Government committed to a national adult autism strategy which will look at four key areas: health, social inclusion, choice and control and training. Mark Lever, the Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society is chair of the strategy's external reference group.
- Statistics are taken from the NAS I Exist campaign. Launched on 5th February, 2008, it aims to improve the lives of the many thousands of adults with autism who are isolated and ignored. Most are unable to access the support they need and are often dependent on their families. The lack of understanding, support and suitable services can have a devastating impact. We want Government and local authorities to take action to transform lives. For further information visit http://www.think-differently.org.uk/campaign.
- Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.
- Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.
The National Autistic Society is the UK's leading charity for people with autism and their families. Founded in 1962, it continues to spearhead national and international initiatives and provide a strong voice for all people with autism. The NAS provides a wide range of services to help people with autism and Asperger syndrome live their lives with as much independence as possible.
The NAS relies on the support of its members and donors to continue its vital work for people with autism. To become a member, make a donation or to find out more about the work of the NAS, visit the NAS website http://www.autism.org.uk.
For more information about autism and for help in your area, call the NAS Autism Helpline on: 0845 070 4004 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday, (local rates apply). The NAS Autism Services Directory is the UK's most comprehensive directory of services and events for people with autism. Visit http://www.autism.org.uk/autismdirectory to find autism services and support networks in your area.
Zamp Bionews, 23rd February 2009To find out more about Autism and The Son-Rise Program and the Autism Treatment Center of America, please go here: http://www.autismtreatmentcenter.org