The National Audit Office (NAO) has today released findings from a new report exploring the problems and challenges of supporting adults with autism. The aim of the report was to assess current service provision in areas including: health, social care, education, benefits and employment support. It also identified how these areas could be made more effective, efficient and appropriate to the needs of adults with autism and their carers.
There are currently over half a million children and adults with autism in the UK, the large majority of whom are adults. The numbers of those diagnosed with autism are on the rise. Autism in adults costs the economy just over £25 billion* each year, yet the NAO report reveals that the provision of services for this vulnerable group is inconsistent. In fact, it showed that the majority of Local Authorities and their NHS partners do not have robust data on the actual number of adults with autism within their area, so they are unable to identify needs and plan accordingly.
"Research Autism is not surprised with the NAO's findings, which confirm what people with autism, professionals and their families have long been saying; that there is an appalling lack of joined up and accessible provision for adults with autism. Help for autism in children has improved greatly in recent years; in theory this should mean that these children are known to government services and should benefit from a planned and tailored transition from education into adult life. However, the report found that despite good intentions in many areas, there was a general lack of planning and it is clear that the level of expertise is seriously below that which is required.
"Therefore, the knowledge base of professionals at key contact points needs to be improved otherwise there will be a continued lack of recognition, misdiagnosis and lack of timely and appropriate help; greatly compounding the level of difficulty faced by those affected and increasing the cost to the nation."
Maddrell continues: "The report also most importantly reveals that with the correct employment support and mentoring, many of these adults can sustain long term education and career paths in various sectors. But at present this is not happening in many places. This is something that Research Autism feels passionately about and is currently working on a project to address this based on our recent research into employment.
"We are also planning a high profile conference next month, where Government officials and Local Authorities will be invited to attend, to further examine just why the outcome is so poor for adults and to identify ways forward.
"To conclude, we may not know the exact causes of autism, but this report confirms the need for better coordinated and informed responses across the lifespan. We know that with correct and timely intervention the quality of life and outlook can be much improved and adults with autism can live fulfilling lives and make a valued contribution to the community.
"The way that services are currently organised results in a struggle for support and poor outcomes. Research Autism therefore welcomes the NAO's report and hopes that it allows the Government to start work to resolve this unfair and wasteful situation. Research Autism will also play an important role in this work; evaluating autism interventions and informing key professionals of the results.
"Otherwise, there is an increasing danger that adults with autism will remain ignored with the attendant human and economic costs that this entails. This must not be allowed to happen."
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Research Autism is the only UK charity that is solely focused on improving the quality of life and outlook for those on the autistic spectrum through the origination and funding of research into the range of interventions in autism. The website www.researchautism.net contains an information centre with a wealth of impartial information. This is used by individuals with autism, families, the professional and research communities and others across the UK and the rest of the world.