Improving access to social care for adults with autism


Diagnosis ... that's the very, very beginning … you're not always given a lot of information about what that diagnosis actually means. (7)

Diagnosing autism is a task for medical professionals, and Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives (10) and the'Autism strategic action plan for Northern Ireland' (24) both plan improvements to medical diagnostic pathways, for adults and children. A well-informed social care workforce has a vital role to play, however, in identifying people who might have autism, but are as yet undiagnosed. Social care workers are also important sources of support at the point of diagnosis, and in the weeks and months that follow.

Getting a diagnosis of autism, especially as an adult, can be hard: four out of five people in our research found obtaining a diagnosis in adulthood either difficult or not possible (7). For some, a diagnosis of autism can lead to discrimination (41), but there are some key benefits:

The social care workforce therefore needs to know how to go about making referrals for a diagnosis, and this must form part of the awareness raising and training they receive. This requires good links between local health and social care bodies, so timely, appropriate referrals can be made, which waste the time of neither people with autism nor professionals.

There are several important things to consider at the point of diagnosis, and in the period that follows:

Of course, people do not need a diagnosis of autism to be assessed for social care services. Conversely, although people should be assessed if they do have a diagnosis, having autism doesn't mean that they will then be eligible for support.

Making sure that, following diagnosis, the assessment for and provision of social care services is done in ways that work for people with autism, is the subject of the next section.