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Department of Health

Think autism: updating the 2010 adult autism strategy

3. “I want to know how to connect with other people. I want to be able to find local autism peer groups, family groups and low level support.”

Many adults with autism find it difficult to make friends. User-led and voluntary support groups help adults with autism build relationships with peers, friends, partners and colleagues and support independent living and being part of the community. It is important that all people with autism, whatever their level of need, can easily access information in their local area about what support from peers, charities or other community groups is available. This is a core part of the Care Bill currently before Parliament.

Eligibility for adult social care

The ‘Prioritising need in the context of Putting People First’ guidance sets out the framework for eligibility to adult social care. If a person does not meet the eligibility criteria set out, the local authority is not required to arrange services for that person (known as Fair Access to Care Services or FACS), that person will not receive publicly funded social care services. The Care Bill will replace the current system with a new national minimum eligibility threshold for access to on-going care and support. Local authorities will not be able to tighten the criteria but they can decide to meet needs that are not eligible.  This will provide more transparency and clarity for people on whether or not they are eligible for local authority funded services.  Of those people with autism who do not meet eligibility criteria, many will still benefit from being connected with peers and with other local groups and other “lower level” preventative support. The Care Bill will place a duty on local authorities to prevent, delay or reduce adults or carers’ needs for care and support.

Low level interpersonal support

Services based around low level interpersonal support, such as buddying schemes, have enabled adults with autism to participate in different social and leisure activities, and promoted social inclusion and wellbeing. Access both to these networks and to advice and information is vital to help people access the communities in which they live. It can also help to prevent people going into crisis situations, which is bad for them as individuals and can be very costly for services.

People with autism and their families have also told us that it can be hard sometimes to know where to go for advice and information locally as they do not fit into local “boxes” such as learning disability or mental health.

A one-shop stop in Hull

FiND (Families for Individual Needs and Dignity) is a charity set up in 2000 by parents of young people with learning disabilities and autism.  FiND has developed services to meet needs identified by parents.  Matthew’s Hub has been developed to meet the needs of people with high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome and is named after a young man with Asperger’s syndrome who committed suicide.  It provides support to access services, and offer a range of opportunities including:

  • Social networking;
  • Volunteering and work;
  • Training and learning;
  • Advice;
  • Advocacy.

The service works with its members to build confidence and self-esteem, and develop real skills to enable them to take up volunteering and work opportunities.  The approach is to encourage individuals to move from doing things alongside others to doing things for themselves and promoting independence.  The project began with the development of a website which includes a social networking forum.  Matthew’s Hub has a base in the heart of the city of Hull, where people with autism are welcome to drop in.  Individuals and families can self-referral.  The service welcomes referrals from social services, GPs, Health services and any other agency whether or not there is a formal diagnosis.  Matthew’s Hub works closely with individual’s families, advocates, social services and Health so that people with high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome can access statutory services as appropriate.

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Autism strategies developed by local authorities should ensure that they include plans for meeting the needs of adults with autism in their local population, as identified in local needs assessments.  We would expect services such as those already described above to be considered in those strategies.

We are also keen to encourage proposals for the Autism Innovation Fund which are based on innovative models for these sorts of services, such as crisis prevention, or for the better provision of advice and information, for example, exploring different models for “one-stop shops”. DH is also exploring the feasibility of research to review the effectiveness of low level interventions aimed at adults with autism who do not meet FACS social criteria.  (Action 9)