Photo of GMAC Autism Strategy pages on a purple/pink background

 

Earlier today, Greater Manchester launched its autism strategy at an event with around 100 autistic people, family members and professionals, hosted by the Mayor Andy Burnham. In this blog, Tim Nicholls our Head of Policy, explains more about the event, the strategy and why it’s breaking new ground.

Read the strategy here

 

I’ve just left the event launching Greater Manchester’s new Making Greater Manchester Autism Friendly strategy. This new strategy sets out a vision for the region that covers important areas of support that autistic adults in Manchester have said they need. In the year when we mark the 10th anniversary of the Autism Act, this represents a big step forward in thinking differently about how to create a society that works for autistic people.

Why this matters

You might be wondering why this is a big deal. Lots of councils have their own autism strategies that set out what they’re going to do to implement the national autism strategy in England. So what’s new?

What makes this strategy ground-breaking is that it’s the first time that a region has come together to create a comprehensive strategy in this way. Greater Manchester is made up of 10 different councils and 10 different Clinical Commissioning Groups. This strategy brings them all together to work on autism. It’s also different because Greater Manchester has a lot of powers that would normally sit with councils or the Government devolved to it, including health and social care. This means that they can take action together on important issues like diagnosis and care and support.

During the Mayoral election, Andy Burnham committed to produce a Greater Manchester-wide autism strategy in his manifesto. Today’s publication makes that commitment a reality. The strategy has been created in partnership with autistic people and their families. This has been led by the Greater Manchester Autism Consortium (GMAC) – a team in the National Autistic Society’s Policy department that you might not have heard of before. GMAC provide important advice for autistic people and their families in the area, as well as working with health and social care commissioners to improve their support and services.

What the strategy does

What does “Making Greater Manchester Autism Friendly” mean? The strategy itself says:

This means a place where you can get a timely diagnosis with support, meet professionals with a good understanding of autism, find services, organisations and employers that make reasonable adjustments when required, where people can feel safe, have aspirations and fulfil their potential, and become a full member of the local community.

This means looking at support and services, as well as understanding. It’s a far-reaching vision – and an ambitious goal.

Autistic people and their families told us what they wanted from this strategy. So it will be focusing on four areas: access, community, health and support, and employment and transition. It includes actions to improve reasonable adjustments to public services, set up a working group on housing, make sure health and care staff are trained, improve GP recording of autism and develop a new framework for supporting young autistic people transition to adult life.

While this strategy is for autistic adults, it includes a commitment to work on proposals to apply it to all ages – just as the national government is doing this year. It also commits the GMAC project team to set up an engagement plan to help reach BAME and LGBT+ communities, as well as older people and women, who have traditionally often been missed by services.

What's happening next

A strategy is no good, as Andy Burnham said in his speech today, “if it just sits in cupboards or on shelves.” That’s why GMAC is setting up a series of implementation groups, involving professionals, autistic people and family members. Andy Burnham has also committed to an annual accountability meeting, to make sure progress is being made. If you live in Greater Manchester and you want to know more about this, get in touch with GMAC.

I hope other regions are looking closely at the work that’s happening in Greater Manchester. Although the terms of each area’s devolution deals are different, are there things that could be learned or applied in Liverpool, West Midlands, Tees Valley, the West of England, or London? I think there are.