Collaborating and joint working for autism

Social care services need to work in partnership with other parts of the service landscape to provide a coherent response to the needs of people with autism. However, social care itself also needs to be more joined up. As we have seen, people with autism can fall between the gaps in social care provision, and sometimes receive little or no social care support until their needs escalate to crisis point. More collaborative efforts, at strategic and operational levels,[57] can prevent this happening.[58]

Locally, the key strategic mechanism for this is the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. These assessments are the responsibility of the local health and wellbeing boards, which bring together local authorities, general practice commissioners, other public and voluntary sector bodies and – via Healthwatch – user and carer representatives.

‘Fulfilling and rewarding lives’ places the joint strategic needs assessment at the heart of joined-up planning for people with autism.[18] The first task is gathering accurate data on the number of people with autism in the local area. From there, local areas, led by the lead commissioners for autism, can jointly plan a commissioning strategy to develop the services that are needed. To do this well, joint strategic needs assessments should include:

Lead local commissioners for autism are vital to good planning and joint working. They need to:

‘Fulfilling and rewarding lives’ suggests that autism planning should take place in local autism partnership boards, which bring together people with autism, their carers and advocates, service providers and statutory commissioners to look at how services can be improved,[18] and ‘Think autism’ reports that these have been a ‘highly effective means for stakeholders to shape and monitor local delivery of the strategy and statutory guidance’.[20]

Local areas are beginning to make progress with this agenda, and have already begun to self-assess against the goals of ‘Fulfilling and rewarding lives’, looking not just at social care, but also links with employment, housing and other mainstream services, and at locally determined priorities.[59]

Joint strategic needs assessments, resource allocation systems and joint improvement partnerships do not operate in Northern Ireland. For commissioning information, refer to guidance produced by the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland, priorities for action and related public service agreements.[60] Mechanisms for joint working are a focus of the strategic action plan for autism 2013-2020.[28]