Welsh Autism Strategic Action Plan annual report papers

The Welsh Government has published its annual report outlining their progress against delivery of their autism strategy.

Read the report here

There are a number of welcome achievements from the last 12 months that are contributing towards improving the lives of autistic people in Wales. There are also some areas where we don’t think that progress has made quickly enough.

We welcome:

Consultation on a Code of Practice on the Delivery of Autism Services

A consultation on the Code of Practice was completed and a summary of responses has been published. The Welsh Government believes that the Code will achieve many of the aims set out in the proposed Autism (Wales) Bill, which was supported by our charity but rejected by Assembly Members in January 2019. We welcome the commitment to consult on the draft Code by the end of the year.

The National Autism Team

We fully support continued funding for the National Autism Team until 2022. The team is responsible for supporting development of the Integrated Autism Service and for maintaining the ASDInfoWales website, which hosts a range of practical information and advice for autistic people, families and professionals.

Roll out of the Integrated Autism Service (IAS)

The IAS has launched in North Wales, Western Bay and West Wales in the last 12 months, meaning that every region in Wales now has access to a specialist autism team which provides information, advice and training as well as diagnostic assessments and support for autistic adults.

Independent evaluation report on the autism strategy and IAS

A full independent evaluation report was published in April 2019, highlighting areas where progress has been made, as well as making some 20 recommendations outlining how services and support can be improved. The Welsh Government is currently considering these recommendations.

We need to see more progress on:

Reducing diagnosis waiting times and publishing data

Many children, young people and adults continue to report unacceptable waiting times to access an assessment for autism. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends a 3 month waiting time between a referral and the start of an assessment. The Welsh Government has set a target of 26 weeks between referral and first appointment, for children and adults, with the view to collecting data from summer 2017.

We are yet to see any details of when this information will be published and what the Welsh Government is doing to reduce assessment waiting times.

Monitoring outcomes of IAS

Whilst we welcome the roll out of the IAS, we are concerned that a lack of outcome monitoring will affect the sustainability of the service. The IAS has been in operation in some parts of Wales for over two years, providing much needed help and support. However, to secure the future of the service, and so that it can continue to improve, it is essential that data is collected to measure the positive impact it is having.

We urge the Welsh Government to commit to include outcome measurements from all IASs in its next annual report to demonstrate the improvements the service is making to people’s lives.

Teacher training

Mandatory autism training for all school staff as part as their initial training and continued professional development was a key recommendation from the National Assembly Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, following its scrutiny of the Autism Bill.

There is no further information about the practical steps Welsh Government is taking to ensure all teacher receive appropriate autism training.

GP autism indicator

Following work done by NICE, we have campaigned for GPs to keep a record of their autistic patients. This will mean patients on the autistic spectrum will be easily identifiable to healthcare professionals working within the GP surgery, helping staff to adapt their approach to suit their patient’s needs. It would also allow for anonymised data to be collected to generate a national picture of the numbers of autistic people and the care they receive, allowing local areas to better plan their services.

Despite the Welsh Government agreeing to this, the annual report notes a number of issues in developing this indicator and we would like clarity on when this will be introduced.