Image of the interior roof of the National Assembly for Wales
The Welsh Government has published its first annual report looking at how well it is implementing its plan on autism. This is the plan that explains what the Welsh Government is doing to improve support for autistic people and their families in Wales.

The report highlights the following improvements in services and support in Wales: 

  • The introduction of a 26 week waiting time target for neurodevelopmental assessment, which includes diagnostic assessments for autism. This target means children shouldn't be waiting longer than 26 weeks for a first appointment for a diagnosis. We welcome the introduction of the target, but we currently don’t know whether it is being met.
  • The roll out of the Integrated Autism Service in four areas: Cardiff and the Vale; Cwm Taf; Powys; and Gwent Health Boards. 
    This new service will provide diagnosis for autistic adults. It also aims to provide support and advice for autistic children, adults and those who support them. New integrated services will be available in Betsi Cadwaladr, Hywel Dda and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Boards by the end of April 2019. Information about the service can be found here  
  • The Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (Wales) Act was passed. This new law, which will be implemented from 2020 and will introduce a new system for children and young people with additional learning needs from the age of 0-25. Under the new system, all learners with additional needs will receive an Individual Development Plan instead of the current Statement, School Action Plus or School Action plans. It also introduces a new role within each health board to help coordinate support between the Health Board and the Local Authority. 

The report also makes new commitments, including publishing a Code of Practice on Autism. While we don’t know the full detail of a Code of Practice, it could ensure that there are services and support put in place, ensure that professionals are suitably trained and ensure that clear pathways for a diagnosis are in place in each local area. We are concerned that this Code alone doesn’t go far enough and we’re continuing to support the call for legislation instead. Read more about our campaign for legislation here

The report also highlights new autism awareness training and resources. These include the 'Learning with Autism' programme for all schools in Wales to become autism aware as well as training resources for people who work in the health, social care and education sectors. 

The National Autistic Society [NAS] Cymru’s External Affairs Manager, Meleri Thomas, said:

'We welcome this report which seeks to chart the progress made in delivering the Welsh Government ASD Strategic Action Plan. We also recognise the positive work of the National ASD Development Team in developing new resources and awareness training for autistic people, their families and professionals.

'However, we would like more detail on how the actions in the report are improving services and support for autistic people and their families across Wales. For example, the 26 week waiting time target is very welcome, but the report doesn’t include any information on whether this target is being met across Wales or how long children and young people continue to wait for assessments. 

'We’d also welcome further detail the impact the Integrated Autism Service is having in different areas of Wales. We’d like to know how many people have accessed the service and what help they have received.  

'The Annual Report makes some further welcome commitments, most notably, the development of a Code of Practice, which would put legal duties on councils around how they are supporting autistic people. We hope that this is considered in the context of the proposed Autism Bill, which we believe can help sustain the improvements the Welsh Government are making in autism services for the long term.'

Read the full report here