Autism Bill launched in Westminster

On 7 October, we launched the Autism Bill (Draft) in Parliament, in partnership with Angela Browning MP and with wide support from the autism community. The Bill has been developed to challenge the exclusion from services that too many people with autism experience: we highlighted this exclusion in our I Exist campaign. The Bill builds on two 'ten-minute rule Bills' introduced by MPs Lee Scott and Angela Browning, as well as the Department of Health's recent commitment to produce a national adult autism strategy.

What will the Autism Bill do?

The Autism Bill aims to strengthen information about the numbers of people with autism and their needs, in order to improve local planning and commissioning of services. It aims to improve inter-agency working to secure effective transition for disabled young people who are moving from child to adult services. Finally, it aims to ensure access to appropriate support and services for people with autism in adult life.

Why are the proposals in the Bill important?

Clauses on information
Very little is known about the prevalence of autism, particularly among adults. Recent research indicates that 1 in 100 children is on the autism spectrum, but very little is know about how many people live in each local authority area.

It is essential that local authorities put systems in place to record the number of people with autism in their area and ensure that they are included in local planning and commissioning strategies. 86% of local authorities say that if they had more information on autism prevalence in their area it would help with long-term planning.

Clauses on transition
The transition from school to adulthood can be a particularly difficult time for young people with autism. They tend to rely on structure, routine and rules and may find it difficult to adapt the rules they have learned in one context to new relationships or situations. Consequently, effective support and early planning is often vital for a successful transition from school life to adulthood. Transition planning requires a high degree of inter-agency co-operation, and this can be where difficulties arise.

Clauses on support for adults
Adults with autism are often unable to access the right support, and consequently become dependent on their families. 61% of adults with autism rely on their families for financial support; over 40% live at home with their parents.

There are structural barriers preventing adults with autism from accessing the support that they desperately need. Local authorities tend to provide services via specific teams, with the teams categorised into client groups. Consequently, people with autism will usually come into contact with the learning disability team and/or the mental health team. However, as autism is a developmental disability - not a learning disability or a mental health problem - many people with autism (particularly those with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism) find themselves 'falling through the gap' between services that refuse to take responsibility for them.

A lack of understanding of, and training in, autism means that the health and community care needs of a person with autism are not properly understood in an assessment: they are then unable to access the services they so desperately need. The right types of support are also lacking. The top three types of support that parents and carers believe that their son or daughter with autism would benefit from are social skills training (60%), social groups (56%) and befriending (49%). Yet, there is a clear shortage of these types of support.

If you are interested in pledging your support for the Bill, please visit the NAS website.

If you require further information please contact the NAS Autism Helpline
Tel: 0845 070 4004
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© The National Autistic Society 2003