Caroline Dinenage headshot

You might have seen the great news that the Government has announced that the autism strategy in England will be extended to cover autistic children, as well as autistic adults. The Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, has written a blog for our charity’s website saying more about her and the Government’s plans. We will have more information about the next steps and how to get involved in the New Year. 

Next year will mark ten years since the Autism Act was passed. In that time, we’ve seen significant improvements in the way our society cares for and supports autistic people.

Two years ago, Liverpool declared itself an autism friendly city. It wanted to be a place where local council services, businesses, leisure and educational facilities could unite in improving access for autistic people, their families and carers, whilst also raising awareness of their needs and issues.

London, Manchester, Leeds and many other towns and cities are investing time and energy in similar projects and it is wonderful to see our localities embrace their autistic populations in this way.

But we must do more. Society is changing rapidly and with it the needs, hopes and aspirations of autistic people. That’s why, to continue to improve their health and life outcomes, we are launching a comprehensive review of our autism strategy to make sure it delivers for all autistic people.

It should be self-evident that autistic people have the same rights as any of us to live healthy, happy, independent lives and be fully engaged in their local communities. 

I want to stress that these rights and aspirations do not start with adulthood - we want an autism strategy that works for people of all ages, which is why we are now working very closely with the Department for Education to extend our approach to children. Some might argue this shift of emphasis is long overdue, but with the current focus on prevention and support in our early years, either way, it is a very welcome one!

Children on the autism spectrum must be identified early and receive integrated, person-centred care at the right time and in the right setting to meet their range of needs.  Vitally, we need to make sure that support stays with them as they transition into adulthood. An all age strategy will seek to encourage that approach and prevent more young people and adults falling through the gaps in the care and support they need and deserve.

Early in the new year, we will be launching a national call for evidence to hear the views of autistic people, their families and carers as well as health and care professionals. We want to know what’s working, what isn’t and where and when to push harder to transform the lives of autistic people everywhere.

Supporting people on the autism spectrum or with learning disabilities is one of the four clinical priority areas in the NHS’s long-term plan, backed by an additional £20.5 billion of government funding a year by 2024.

To achieve the best for autistic children and adults though, we also need to build more bridges into our local communities. That’s why I want to encourage as many of you as possible to contribute your views to the call for evidence, whether or not you work in – or use – health, care and education services.

Autistic people are valued members of our communities. It is within our villages, towns and cities that we’ll find the best, most compassionate and intuitive solutions to improving support, unlocking potential and realising ambition. A national autism strategy that works for both children and adults is more than a strategy – it’s a design for life – and you can be the designers!

Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP