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Department of Health

Think autism: updating the 2010 adult autism strategy

2. “I want my views and aspirations to be taken into account when decisions are made in my local area. I want to know whether my local area is doing as well as others.”

The 2010 Autism Strategy and statutory guidance set out that every local area is expected to have an Autism Partnership Board (APB) in place or a similar mechanism to ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including people with autism and their families and senior commissioners, of health and care services help identify local need and plan appropriate services and support. Later this year, we will  emphasise in the updated statutory guidance the need for strong local partnership working with people with autism and their families.

Effective APBs or similar mechanisms can play an important role in engaging people with autism and family members in the development of local plans. Supplementing and working with other statutory local groups, such as Health and Wellbeing Boards, APBs (or similar partnership mechanisms) should have the sign-up of key lead individuals across public bodies – social services, health, education, housing and criminal justice. They should be able to demonstrate their positive involvement and achievement against the strategic strands in which they are involved. Effective APBs establish clear goals and monitor progress. DH has funded NAS to provide a guide for local authorities on how best to involve people with autism in APBs as well as how to involve people more widely – ‘It involves us: Enabling meaningful inclusion of adults with autism in the development of local autism plans’ (details are on the NAS website).

Communication in Hampshire

Early in 2010, Hampshire County Council developed close working partnerships with autism commissioning leads from health and local unitary authorities within Southampton, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth (acronym SHIP). Meeting monthly the leads explored commonalities and adopted approaches that supported the development of their four closely mirrored local Autism Strategies. The Hampshire Autism Programme Board (HAPB) was established to improve access to better local services by people with autism and their families. The Hampshire autism communication strategy was developed by setting up Hampshire Autism Voice (HAV) at the same time as the APB. HAV is a resource of the Board whose membership comprises people with autism, parents and carers. HAV and the communication strategy connected the Board to the local autism community. A HAV communication workshop highlighted the approaches required to engage with local people with autism, especially those hard to reach. The communication strategy enabled extensive participation and consultations with the autism community which took place from 2011 to 2012.

HAPB’s web pages and SHIP wide developed introduction to Autism e-learning (found via Hampshire County Council’s website)

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Subject to Parliament, the Care Bill will place a new duty on local authorities  to involve adults in care and support assessment, planning and review. Many people will be able to do this on their own and many others will have someone (usually a friend or family member) who is able to act on their behalf. However, the Bill also stipulates that an independent advocate must be provided where this is required to facilitate the involvement of the individual concerned.

The Children and Families Act 2014 requires local authorities to publish details of the education, training, children’s and young people’s services which people can expect to be available in their areas. The Act sets out the expectations that parents and young people (up to 25) will be consulted about the services in this “local offer”. During 2014, NAS will issue a guide, developed with funding from DfE, on how to include young people with autism in the development of the local offer. (Action 6)

DH, Public Health England (PHE), ADASS and the LGA will use their respective communication routes to emphasise that local authorities are aware that the involvement of self-advocates with autism and carers of people with autism should now be a central component in the regular self-assessment exercise for local authorities and their partners.  This should provide a clear channel for users and potential users of local services to contribute their views on, and experiences of local services, which will in turn inform local priorities. DH will make Healthwatch England aware of this work. The next self-assessment exercise will be issued in November 2014. (Action 7)

DH with PHE and partners like NAS will also look at how information on local progress, including the self-evaluation exercise, can be brought together in a single place digitally so that it is easily accessible to people on APBs, to young people and their families and to their local communities. This empowers local communities to hold their local authorities and other local services to account as part of the local democratic process and ensures that they have the right tools to engage with important groups like the Health and Wellbeing Board. We aim to bring together the 2014/15 local self-evaluation responses with other available data. (Action 8) This will allow a ready comparison of local offers and experiences. The local offer under the Children and Families Act will also cover health and care services for those aged 18 to 25. It is critical this links with wider work on supporting adults with autism.