Think Autism sets out a programme of action the Department of Health and other government departments will take to improve the lives of autistic people.
The Think Autism strategy (2014) builds on rather than replaces the themes in Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives (2010).
There are three new key proposals in the Think Autism strategy. These are in addition to the existing duties of the 2010 strategy, and are expected to make a big difference to the lives, services and support for adults with autism over the next five years.
The three proposals are:
- Autism Aware Communities - Think Autism community awareness projects will be established in local communities and there will be pledges/awards for local organisations to work towards
- Autism Innovation Fund - funding for projects that promote innovative local services and projects, particularly for lower-level preventative support
- Better data collection and more joined up advice and information services - including a new way of social care staff recording someone’s condition as autism, and a commitment to make it easier for people with autism to find information online about how their local authorities are performing.
The Government has allocated £4.5 million towards the Autism Innovation Fund and autism aware communities programme. This funding has been announced for one year.
What else does the strategy say?
The Think Autism strategy reinforces the expectations and actions for local authorities and local NHS bodies, set out in the 2010 strategy.
There are some significant developments including:
- local authorities need to report on data about people with autism for the first time
- the Royal College of GPs has made autism a priority for training and awareness over the next three years
- autism awareness training will be made available to all mainstream healthcare professionals
- new autism training will hopefully be rolled out to all Disability Employment Advisors at Jobcentres
- the Government has committed to reviewing the autism strategy again within the next five years.
Think Autism reaffirms the importance of the five areas for action identified in the 2010 strategy aimed at improving the lives of adults with autism:
- making sure that more people understand about autism
- making it easier for adults to get a diagnosis of autism - a diagnosis is when a doctor tells someone that they have autism
- making it easier for adults with autism to choose how they live and get the help that they need to do this
- helping adults with autism to find jobs
- helping local councils and health services to write plans so that the adults with autism who live in their area get the help that they need.
The updated strategy states that all of the existing duties and recommendations from the 2010 strategy still apply to local authorities and NHS bodies. Namely:
- improved training of frontline professionals in autism
- the recommendation to develop local autism teams
- actions for better planning and commissioning of services, including involving people with autism and their parents/carers
- actions for improving access to diagnosis and post-diagnostic support
- leadership structures at national, regional and local levels for delivery
- proposals for reviewing the strategy to make sure that it is working.