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, can prevent this happening.
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. 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:
- key characteristics such as the age, race and sexuality of people with autism, as well as where and with whom they live
- links with health, education, housing, employment and community groups
- input from children’s services as they relate to people with autism
- facilities for joint training and pooled budgets to allow for as much flexibility as possible.
Lead local commissioners for autism are vital to good planning and joint working. They need to:
- be on mainstream health and social care commissioning bodies as well as autism-specific ones, so that people with autism are not seen as a minority interest
- ensure that all relevant contracts include the requirement to meet the needs of people with autism
- link up with autism charities, social enterprises and user-led organisations
- promote the involvement of people with autism and their carers in service design and delivery
- promote localised, non-residential provision, and good partnership working with housing services
- ensure that local provision is available for people with autism with behaviour that challenges services, including in an emergency
- develop protocols as to where people with autism will receive support, to avoid the gap between mental health and learning disability services
- promote effective information-sharing between and within public bodies and voluntary organisations
- consider the extra costs of autism in their commissioning strategies, and when setting up resource allocation systems.
‘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, 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’.
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.
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. Mechanisms for joint working are a focus of the strategic action plan for autism 2013-2020.