How to Choose an Autism & Aspergers Syndrome Care Service Provider

Asking the right questions...

These are some basic questions we believe you should ask any provider.

Q.  How long has your organisation been providing services relevant to me?
A.  How long a provider has been operating is often important when looking for a service, indicating greater experience, expertise and a stability that is usually very appealing.  However, the number of years an organisation has been trading should not be your only consideration. Improvement, innovation and continuous development are signs of a dynamic and responsive organisation. 
Evidence of this can usually be found within reports from the regulatory bodies, for example the Care Quality Commission (previously the Commission for Social Care Inspection & Healthcare Commission) and Ofsted. These are free to download from the Commissions website (www.cqc.org.co.uk) and will give you an overview of how the organisation has fared over the years and how they have responded to comments and criticism; look for the action points and whether they have been addressed!

Q.  What is your philosophy of care?
A. 
Often seen as simply a catchy headline useful in the marketing process, the philosophy of care is actually central to operation of the company and should go much deeper than the title page of a brochure.  Ask about person centred planning; how is positive risk taking and decision making encouraged; is there an awareness of safeguarding issues and managing abuse; how is choice & inclusion promoted?; how are links with friends, family & social contacts maintained? 

Q.  How do you know that your service is right for me/us, and vice versa!
A. 
One of the first things any good care provider will want to do is carryout an assessment. This may take many forms but should look at whether the provider can meet individual needs and whether the placement is appropriate given the context of others within the service.  This can be a useful process to see just how much experience or expertise the organisation has.  Look at the areas that are identified. Do they reflect you or the person you represent? Are there realistic proposals for meeting these needs? Does it clearly set out the areas that the organisation can and cannot meet. 

Q.  How do I know you have the right staff?
A.
  The prospective care provider should be able to talk you through their recruitment process and may be able to give you examples of the policy.  This should include requirements to receive satisfactory references from previous employers, screening under the Independent Safeguarding Authority and Criminal Records Bureau checks. There should be a system of induction training and on-going supervision and professional development.
Anyone providing a care service must meet certain mandatory minimum training requirements in order to maintain their registration, such as food hygiene, fire safety and first aid.  It is useful to find out how well an organisation is meeting these mandatory requirements but it is also important to look at what additional training or support is provided, i.e. that the company does not have to provide.  Investment in staff teams in terms of specific, relevant training or development is a sign that skill and expertise is valued.   It is also worth looking at how the training is provided.  It is quite normal to have an ‘in-house’ training system whereby key members of staff train others.  If this is not part of a formal accreditation scheme (such as train the trainers, see www. Etc ) there is the potential for information to be watered down or not effectively communicated.

Q.  How do I know you will provide the service you propose?     
A.
  Quality assurance is as important in healthcare as any other ‘industry’.  Ask about the care planning and review process; how objectives are set and measured; how are people involved in the process; the mechanisms for raising concerns / complaints; how you can give feedback; what do other people say about the service; what resources or facilities are included in the fee and what is extra; can you visit the service before making a decision; what is the management structure?

Q. What about ‘challenging behaviour’?
A.
  A term used to describe a huge variety of issues but often most applied to physically aggressive or destructive behaviour. This is a key area to look at for anyone with an ASD (or acting on behalf of someone with an ASD) when looking for a service.  You need to know that safety and dignity will be paramount in managing challenging behaviour and that any use of restraint or restrictive practices is in line with agreed procedures.  Have a look at the British Institute of Learning Disabilities website.  (http://www.bild.org.uk/)   This will give you a list of accredited reactive models under the Physical Interventions Accreditation Scheme. Ask about policies on restraint; seclusion; sanctions; emergency medication and managing challenging behaviour. Ask how this is monitored and what systems there are to avoid restrictions.