We are delighted to be working with partners, including autistic people and people with a learning disability, to help develop the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism.

This training trial is for health and care staff in England. It will make a huge difference to autistic people and we hope it will help them stay healthy and get help from the NHS and social care. It is the result of tireless campaigning, especially from Paula McGowan. Paula has been at the forefront of calls for better understanding and training for health and care professionals, since the tragic death of her son, Oliver, in 2016.

Why this training is important

Thousands of autistic people and their families, as well as our charity, backed Paula’s petition and made the Government take action to make sure autism was included in the training. In 2018, the Government committed to making this happen, and last year the Government promised to start rolling it out, finally living up to its duties in the Autism Act.

Our own research has shown that professional understanding of autism is worryingly low. Only 11% of autistic adults think hospital doctors understand autism, while 10% believe this for social workers. That’s why we really wanted to work with autistic people, people with a learning disability and their families, to develop what this training looks like and to deliver it. It’s vital that this guarantees health and care professionals across the country understand autism and learning disability better, and how they need to adapt their support.

Partners announced

The Government launched an open application process at the end of last year for autistic people and people with a learning disability, and charities, to propose how they would develop and trial this training. After reviewing all the applications, on the 16 July 2020, Health Education England announced who will be working together to do this.

We’re delighted that we’re one of the partners who’ve been chosen to develop the training, working alongside:

  • Access All Areas Theatre Group
  • Be Well Education, Learning and Development
  • Carly Jones MBE
  • Challenging Behaviour Foundation
  • Edge Training and Consultancy Ltd
  • Insight Autism CIC
  • Jeremy Harris
  • Mencap
  • RCN (Royal College of Nursing)

How the programme will be run

We’re going to work together deliver a high-quality trial for the training. Autistic people will of course be at the heart of developing and delivering the training, as staff within our charity and among the partners and their staff.

The steering group for the programme will be made up of people with lived experience and expert by experience, including people who are either autistic, have a learning disability or their families. It will meet monthly.

People with lived experience will also be part of every work stream and will be an integral part of the design, production of the development of the training, as well as providing oversight. And the trial itself will be delivered by autistic people and people with a learning disability (face to face) as well as films scripted and acted by people with a learning disability (Access all Areas).

Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “We are delighted to contribute to this vital training, alongside the other partners. Autistic people and their families will rightly be at the centre of the programme and involved in every stage, from the design right through to the delivery and evaluation.

“The training will make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of autistic people once it’s rolled out. It is only happening thanks to tireless campaigning, especially by Paula McGowan who has been fighting for this ever since the tragic death of her son Oliver in 2016.

"The truth is too many healthcare staff still don’t understand autism or how to support autistic people. Just last year an inquiry by MPs and peers found that just 11% of autistic adults think hospital doctors have a good understanding of autism, while only 10% said this for social workers.

“Simple things, like giving someone more time to understand and answer questions in a consultation can make all the difference. Failing to make reasonable adjustments could put someone's health at risk.

“This training is a big step forward but it’s not enough on its own. Autistic people will continue to face huge health inequalities until the Government properly invests in social care and community mental health services. The system has been in crisis for years and this has been laid bare for all to see by coronavirus."

Further information