Solutions for personalising autism services
Managers and commissioners need to take advantage of the opportunities available in the changing social care system to enable people with autism to make use of personalised services. Policy in England calls for a universal offer of advice and support in finding appropriate assistance, so personalisation ought to have something to offer even to those people with autism who do not have eligible needs after assessment. The government’s continued call for more timely diagnosis, alongside the Care Act’s duty to provide a social care assessment against wellbeing criteria for everyone receiving a diagnosis  are likely to bring more people with autism into the social care system, and give them the chance of a personalised package. For those in need of a substantial care package, including medical support, a personal health budget may be allocated alongside, or instead of, a personal budget.
Resource allocation systems need to allow for high-quality, flexible support, and should cover the costs of brokerage  and allow for staff and organisations with expertise in autism to be purchased if necessary. Local leadership through the autism partnership boards in England should be in place to make sure this happens, and should also check that resource allocation system-based provision is not so slow to set up as to cause undue anxiety to people with autism.
For some of the bureaucratic hurdles involved in personalising support to be overcome, advocacy and independent brokerage need be available to people with autism, alongside good-quality information about choices and options. And, of course, information about the options is not enough: people with autism need the options to be of good quality and varied, and to include well-trained personal assistants who understand autism, and who can understand them.
A local structure
Developing a local structure for personalised services can best be done in partnership with people with autism and their families. User-led organisations can also help develop acceptable services for people with autism to purchase.
Autistic people are likely to benefit from some more managed forms of personal budgets, such as:
- personal trusts, in which money is held by people close to the user
- direct payments
- individual service funds, in which a service holds a budget on behalf of, and for the sole use of, the autistic person.
Local advocacy services with an understanding of people with autism need to be available to ensure that they receive good-quality advice about the options, and social care staff need to be familiar with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (or relevant mental capacity legislation) as a way of ensuring that people with autism are properly and legally supported to make decisions.
Personalisation has the potential for helping autistic people to maintain meaningful, healthy lives. However, service providers need to ensure that a person-centred approach takes into account the communication needs of the autistic person, and that a strengths-based approach is taken in order to promote their wellbeing and build on their personal capabilities and relationships.
- 'A manual for good social work practice: supporting adults who have autism'2015), Department of Health.
- 'Mental Capacity Act resource'(2009), Social Care Institute for Excellence
- 'Strengths-based approaches for assessment and eligibility under the Care Act 2014'(2015), Social Care Institute for Excellence.