We have answered some of the questions that people might have about the Autism Act, adult autism strategy and adult autism statutory guidance in England. We hope that it is helpful. If you have any other questions you can email campaign@nas.org.uk or call 020 7923 5799.

What is the Autism Act?

The Autism Act 2009 was the first ever disability-specific law in England.

The Act did two key things:

  • The first was to put a duty on the Government to produce a strategy for adults with autism, which was published in March 2010.
  • The second was a duty on the Government to produce statutory guidance for local councils and local health bodies on implementing the adult autism strategy by the end of 2010. This guidance was published in December 2010.


What is the adult autism strategy?

The adult autism strategy is the Government's plan to make sure that adults with autism get the help that they need. This might be things like help to get a job or help at home.

The adult autism strategy explains the different things that the Government will do to make sure adults with autism get the help that they need. The strategy also tells local councils and health services how they can help people with autism.

The first ever strategy for adults with autism in England - entitled Fulfilling and rewarding lives - was published in 2010 with a commitment to review this strategy three years later.

In 2013, the Government asked for feedback from adults with autism, parents, carers and professionals about how well the 2010 strategy had been implemented so far.

The new strategy - Think Autism - was published in April 2014.

What is the Autism Act statutory guidance?

The statutory guidance has been published to ensure the implementation of the adult autism strategy. This guidance tells local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS Foundation Trusts what actions should be taken to meet the needs of people with autism living in their area.

The Government published a new statutory guidance in March 2015, which replaced an existing guidance from 2010.

Is there new money to help adults with autism?

No, the statutory guidance does not come with any new money for services.

However, we do expect services to change. This is because, if done correctly, local services can save money. If local services identified and supported just four per cent of adults with high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome, the outlay would become cost neutral over time. If they did the same for just eight per cent, it could save the Government £67 million per year.

Although an initial cost with identification will be placed on the NHS – estimated to be around £28 million for an eight per cent identification rate – the saving for local authorities would potentially be around £105 million.

With health and social care being more closely integrated, this amounts to real savings for the NHS in the medium to long-term.

What if things are not improving in my area?

We know that while a lot of local areas have been working to improve their services for adults with autism, progress remains patchy. The Department of Health requires local authorities to report on their progress regularly through a self-assessment exercise. The information collected through this is available online for each local authority.

If your area is not showing progress, the first thing to do is check that your local authority and NHS know about their duties. Your local authority should have an "Autism Lead" who should oversee planning for adults with autism in your area. You could ask to meet with them. You could also meet with other local politicians to highlight the statutory guidance. Your area should have a partnership between the council, health and people with autism (this might be called an Autism Partnership Board), which you might be able to join.

The NAS produced a guide for people to use to campaign locally, called Act Together. This was produced for the 2010 statutory guidance, but you might find this useful if you are talking to your local authority. If you have any questions, you can contact campaigns@nas.org.uk.

Finally, if your council or NHS are making decisions that go against the statutory guidance, you might be able to take legal action.

Why does the Autism Act, autism strategy and statutory guidance not cover children?

At first, the Autism Bill was about adults and children. But the Government told us that they would help children with autism in other ways. The NAS continues to campaign for better services for children with autism.

What nations are covered by the Autism Act?

The Autism Act, strategy and the statutory guidance relate only to adults with autism living in England.