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What is the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA)?

The APPGA is a formal cross-party backbench group of Members of the House of Commons (MPs) and Members of the House of Lords who campaign in Parliament for greater awareness of autism, and improved services for autistic people and their families. We have also offered autism training for MPs and their staff to improve understanding of autism in Parliament.

Why did the APPGA decide to carry out this inquiry?

Ten years after the introduction of the Autism Act, the APPGA and the National Autistic Society wanted to gauge the impact this legislation has made and find out more about the state of support and services for autistic people in England.

With the Government also set to refresh the autism strategy in the coming months, the group wanted to set out recommendations on what it believes this refreshed strategy should say and do.

How did the APPGA decide to focus on the issues covered in the report?

In 2016, the APPGA carried out a public consultation to see what autistic people and their families wanted the group to focus on. Using the results of this consultation, and taking into consideration the areas that the autism strategy covers, the group decided to focus on the following areas:

  • public understanding of autism
  • education and transition to adulthood
  • physical health inequalities
  • mental health
  • support in adulthood
  • employment
  • access to justice.

Where did the APPGA get its evidence from?

We worked with the APPGA to carry out an inquiry between March and May 2019. This included an online survey (Autism Act – 10 Years On) on the National Autistic Society’s website, completed by over 11,000 people (8,210 family members and 2,974 autistic adults) in England. We also held six evidence sessions in Parliament, which involved MPs and Peers hearing from autistic people, family members and professionals working in the field of autism. In addition to the sessions, we held a focus group with council representatives, and had a call for evidence, which received 72 longer pieces of written evidence.

Does this report apply to the whole of the UK or just England?

The Autism Act is an England-only piece of legislation, so the report applies only to England. However some of the policy areas (like employment and public understanding) are issues that the UK Government could take action on across other nations in the UK.

We are always working to make sure that there is proper care and support for autistic people and their families.

  • In Wales, we campaigned hard for autism legislation but unfortunately the Autism Act was defeated in the National Assembly for Wales in January 2019. However, the Welsh Government is now working on a Code of Practice on the Development of Autism Services, which should be available for consultation in the next few months.
  • In Scotland, we are currently carrying out a review of the Scottish Strategy for Autism in partnership with the Cross Party Group on Autism at the Scottish Parliament. This will report in the next few months.
  • While Northern Ireland has an Autism Act, the Northern Ireland Assembly is not currently sitting.

Our survey collected data from across the UK and we will be using this information to inform our campaigning work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the future.

What is the Autism Act and why does it make a difference?

The Autism Act was a landmark moment in the campaign to improve the lives of autistic adults and their families in England. It requires government to have an adult autism strategy, setting out how autistic adults should be better supported, and it says that this must be underpinned by statutory guidance, placing duties on councils and the NHS to take action.

In 2009, most areas in England didn’t have an adult diagnosis service. Now almost all (93%) do. Nearly every council has a designated member of staff to lead the development of adult autism services. And, during a time when council services have faced cuts, we have managed to use the Autism Act’s duties to save some services.

But, the Act isn’t implemented properly in too many places. People are still waiting far too long for an autism diagnosis. Despite clear legal obligations, too many are denied an assessment of their social care needs. That’s not good enough and we want to change it – that’s why we’ve launched the Not Enough campaign.

How are the Autism Act and the autism strategy different?

The Autism Act put a duty on the Government to produce and regularly review an autism strategy, which sets out how the Government will meet the needs of autistic adults in England. The first ever strategy for autistic people in England – called Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives – was published in 2010 with a commitment to review this strategy three years later. The refreshed strategy, Think Autism, was published in April 2014. The Government is set to review this strategy in the coming months.

What happens next?

Over the next few months, we will use the evidence and recommendations from this report to campaign alongside our supporters to help secure the changes we want to see.

How can I support the Not Enough campaign?

There are many ways you can support our Not Enough campaign, such as signing up for our campaigner updates or joining a local branch. You can find out how to do this here.