A little bit of the Autism Act

Although I am primarily considered to be a dyslexia specialist tutor, I also have a long history of associations with Autism. I’ve also been involved with the local ASD Steering Group for a few years. Times are a-changing though, and while the group originally covered children, it now covers children, young people and families. Quite possibly, it will merge with the Adult Steering Group, which is far less active than we are.

It makes sense to be one group. To understand what has shaped adults with ASD, you need to understand their journey there. If their journey into adulthood was a secure one, individuals are more likely to be involved in the types of everyday activities that the majority of the population are involved in. Bad experiences for anyone, after all, is going to have a profound effect on them. Understanding and removing barriers in childhood will also mean less reliance on services in adulthood. Additionally, by monitoring children, forethought can be given so that support is available at the right time. After all, knowing if a population is going up or down, for example, enables planners to identify what housing is needed. It’s no different with autism, knowing what the population is doing informs good planning.

I find it somewhat ironic though, that it is the Steering Group that is driving an all-age strategy for Autism in our county. Don’t get me wrong, there is an Adult Autism lead who is trying to prepare something, but it isn’t all-age and he’s more or less doing it alone. The biggest irony at this time is the fact that the two UNPAID members of the Steering Group are the two doing the lion’s share of the work. I am one half of that duo. I do not have attendance funding from an employer, a charity or a parent/carer forum. Nor does the Chair. So, if this document gets adopted when written, it will, by and large, be a freebie for the county.

I am not whinging, I am not bitter. I come from the mould that says ‘if you want anything done, do it yourself’. We have a great opportunity here to create something wonderful for our county, and I shall grab that opportunity with both hands. Even at my own expense.

There is something that irks though. What is passed is already in Law. Tiny three lettered word there that means so much. It – is – in – LAW! I am assisting in writing a document for something that should already be there. Why then, am I doing this? Why does the LA and the NHS need volunteers to tell them what they should be doing? **sigh**

So, back in March, the government released a document ‘Statutory guidance for Local Authorities and NHS organisations to support the implementation of the Adult Autism Strategy (DoH, 2015). I’ve been summarising it to form the framework for our document, overlaying the Children & Families Act to extend this to cover from cradle to grave. For those unfamiliar with this document, support comes under the following headings:

  1. Training of staff who provide services to adults with autism
  2. Identification and diagnosis of autism in adults, leading to assessment of needs for relevant services
  3. Planning in relation to the provision of services for people with autism as they move from being children to adults
  4. Local planning and leadership in relation to the provision of services for adults with autism
  5. Preventative support and safeguarding in line with the Care Act 2014 from April 2015
  6. Reasonable Adjustments and Equality
  7. Supporting people with complex needs, whose behaviour may challenge or who may lack capacity
  8. Employment of adults with autism
  9. Working with the criminal justice system

Number 8 I am particularly curious about – I wonder how many people with autism government, LAs and the NHS actually employ and in what positions?

The document can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/adult-autism-strategy-statutory-guidance

What is slowly being unearthed is the difference between what the legal stuff says and what is actually happening. These gaps must be narrowed to the point of no gap at all! Not an easy ask when budgets are being forever squeezed. And yet, it comes back to my initial point – if children are well supported, they will cost much less in adulthood. Not quite chicken-and-egg.

What is crystal clear throughout this and similar documents is a) there is no more money and b) these public bodies should have already been going this under the Equality Act 2010.

For now I shall play my part and work for free and carry on reading, summarising and overlaying relevant and various pieces of legal stuff – and it will all be done in plain English. After all, the majority of people working to these guidances, or recipients of the support they should offer, do not necessarily have Masters degrees…!

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