House of Commons Library

Autism – overview of UK policy and services

Published Thursday, March 22, 2018

This briefing provides an overview of policies and services for people with autism, primarily in England.

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It is estimated that more than half a million people in England have autism, which is equivalent to more than 1% of the population. There is however no national register or exact count kept of the number of people with the condition.

Successive Governments have pledged to improve outcomes for people with autism. The Autism Act was passed in 2009 and committed the Government to producing a strategy for adults with autism. In 2010, the Government produced the first autism strategy for England, Fulfilling and rewarding lives. The associated statutory guidance for local authorities and NHS organisation supported the strategy’s implementation, and included duties and recommendations on areas including training of staff, identification and diagnosis of autism, and local service provision. The strategy was updated in 2014 – Think Autism built on the 2010 strategy and set a renewed focus on three key areas: building communities that are aware of autism; promoting innovation in service provision; and providing integrated care.

Think Autism and the revised statutory guidance contain duties and recommendations for service providers and Government departments across areas including employment, welfare, criminal justice, transport and education services. A progress report on the implementation of Think Autism was published in January 2016.

Recent legislation has also provided for new duties for services for people with autism, including the Care Act 2014 which provides that all staff who undertake autism assessments must have appropriate training, and the Children and Families Act 2014 which provides for a new special education needs and disability support system, covering education, health and social care.

This note focuses on policies in England. Health is a devolved matter, and so each of the devolved administrations are responsible for setting their own policies in this area. However, the note briefly outlines strategies implemented by the Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in section 8.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7172

Authors: Elizabeth Parkin; Alex Bate; Robert Long; Manjit Gheera; Andy Powell; Alexander Bellis; Jacqueline Beard

Topics: Administration of justice, Community care, Crime, Diseases, Employment, Health services, Mental health, Prisons, Sickness, disability and carers' benefits

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