Learning Disabilities & Autism Opinion

A brighter future for people with autism?

Anna Bailey-Bearfield, Policy Manager at the National Autistic Society

Could the 2020s be the decade that autistic children and adults in England finally get the support they need? There are some promising signs, with the Government set to publish the new national autism strategy in the coming months and committing to extend this to children, alongside adults, for the first time.

But real change won’t happen until the Government sorts out tfhe crisis in social care. This is one of the most striking issues which undermined the promise of the original autism strategy when it was first published 10 years ago.

Our joint inquiry with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism found that 71% of autistic adults don’t get the support they need. We hear from so many who become lonely or isolated and even develop mental health problems after struggling without the support they need.

For more than twenty years, governments have recognised that the social care system is underfunded and that disabled and older people aren’t getting the support they need. But no government has – to date – been able to change this. And it has increasingly affected councils, who struggle to provide the care many autistic adults need.

A new Government

Every year, more and more people need social care. Despite this increase in demand, councils have seen their budgets squeezed in recent years. Successive governments have had to invest short-term funding to prevent the care system from collapse.

Back in July 2019, during his first speech as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised to resolve the social care crisis “once and for all”.  However, we and over 80 other organisations in the Care and Support Alliance were disappointed that there was no firm commitment to reform social care in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, despite a brief mention. We were – and are – worried that social care could be put in the “too difficult to solve” box once again.

What we want to see from the new Government

Change can’t come soon enough for autistic people and their families. So many are already living without the basic support they need, and we fear this will only get worse if the new Government doesn’t finally resolve the question of how to fund social care. In the immediate term, it is vital that the Government uses the upcoming update to the autism strategy to set out what services councils should be commissioning and how.

While the autism strategy is an important opportunity to drive forward change, its promise can only be fulfilled if we also have a social care system that works. During the Queen’s Speech, the Government said it would work to find cross-party consensus about how to fix the social care system. And, as part of the Care and Support Alliance, we’re calling on them to set out a plan to do so by March. But, if a consensus can’t be found across parties, this must not mean further delays.

The Government should create a system that really works for everyone, including autistic people. This means:

  • putting a stop to people having to struggle on with unmet needs
  • making sure councils have the funding they need in the future to provide high quality care
  • working with charities, autistic people and their families as well as care professionals to find out what they need, and delivering on their promise from July 2019 to solve this once and for all.

Find out more: www.careandsupportalliance.com



Edel Harris





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