Improving access to social care for adults with autism

Fulfilling and rewarding lives

All adults with autism are able to live fulfilling and rewarding lives within a society that accepts and understands them. They can get a diagnosis and access support if they need it, and they can depend on mainstream public services to treat them fairly as individuals, helping them make the most of their talents.

The vision for adults with autism set out in Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives (10)

Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives (10) is the governmental strategy for improving outcomes for adults with autism in England. It calls for a societal culture shift, so that the equality and human rights of people with autism are respected. To help improve the quality of life for people with autism, it sets out the need for better:

The strategy also sets out the costs for people with autism of not changing things:

The strategy has a clear narrative: raise awareness among professionals; train those who play key roles in the lives of people with autism; make sure diagnostic services are available; and ensure that good planning and leadership are in place so that good local services can be provided.

The strategy arises from the Autism Act 2009, and builds on a number of recent government publications on, or relevant to, autism. For more details of the policy context, and the provisions of Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives, see the Policy context section.

The strategy is backed by statutory guidance, 'Implementing Fulfilling and rewarding lives'(11). Both the strategy and guidance call on public bodies, including social care organisations, to meet their existing duties to people with autism. All major pieces of social care, health and equality legislation apply to people with autism, but have not been used with sufficient consistency to support them in practice.

The strategy and guidance make it clear that this is not acceptable (10), and call for a better use of existing law, and policies such as Valuing People Now (12) and Think Local, Act Personal(13), to support people with autism.

Importantly, the strategy and guidance make clear that a diagnosis of any autistic spectrum condition, including Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism, is a reason to assess somebody for services.

As well as aiming to improve public services for people with autism, the documents call for all mainstream services - such as transport, leisure and employment - to get better at adjusting to, and meeting the needs of, people with autism.

The statutory guidance allows for local discretion in how the strategy is implemented (11), and there is concern that a lack of funds and central direction may hamper some of the key aims (14, 11). Nonetheless, local authorities, and most NHS bodies, will need to abide by the guidance, and improve their:

Progress has begun in local areas towards meeting these goals. If local partners succeed, the experience of people with autism who use these services can reasonably be expected to improve. This guide shows what people with autism find problematic with services now, and how things can be done better, so that national strategies can be translated to Frontline improvements.