We know that many of our branches and supporters have contributed to the first year of Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) local area inspections of the SEND [in full] reforms in England. 

They have just published a report of their overall findings and it highlights many of the same concerns we have raised about the way the education system works for autistic children and young people. In particular, the serious delays in assessing children’s needs and putting in place the support they need at school and in the wider community.

For instance: ‘The [autism] diagnostic pathway commissioned in most of the local areas inspected for autistic spectrum disorder was poor. This was particularly the case for children and young people who were referred for assessment when they were school-aged. In some local areas, families experienced unacceptably long delays between an assessment being agreed and a diagnosis. In the worst cases, families waited for over two years. Families described becoming even more frustrated and sometimes isolated, with little or no support. In many cases, the lack of support continued post-diagnosis.’ 

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs and Social Change at the National Autistic Society, said;
‘Ofsted and CQC have shone a light on the huge barriers autistic children and their families face to getting a decent education and basic support from health and social services. We hear from families daily that their children are not getting the support that the law entitles them to. We are particularly concerned – but not surprised – that inspectors found that the autism diagnostic pathway commissioned in most of the local areas inspected was poor.

‘The reforms to the special education system could transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, but councils, schools and health services need to put them into practice. Otherwise children on the autism spectrum and their desperate families will continue to suffer. We urge the Department for Education to work more closely with local councils to make sure that the right services are in place across England so that children on the autism spectrum can learn basic skills and they and their families can have a decent quality of life.’

The National Autistic Society is supporting the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) with an inquiry into how effectively the education system in England works for children and young people on the autism spectrum. The APPGA will publish a report and recommendations next month.

Read the Ofsted/Care Quality Commission report here