Landmark victory for local autism services

On 17 December 2010, the Government published statutory guidance for local councils and local NHS bodies setting out what they have to do to ensure they meet the needs of adults with autism in England. All thanks to the Autism Act 2009.

Read our Q&A on the Autism Act and how it fits with the guidance here.

As the guidance is statutory, local councils and local health bodies have a legal duty to implement it.

Where the guidance says that a local area should do something, this means that they will have to do it by law, unless they have a strong reason not to. Lack of money will not necessarily be a strong reason.

The guidance sends a clear message that local councils and local NHS bodies in England must improve:


training for their staff
identification and diagnosis of autism in adults
planning of services for people with autism, including the transition from child services to adult services
local leadership.

This guidance is a significant improvement from the draft guidance that the Government consulted on over the summer. The first draft of the guidance was criticised by many, including the NAS, because of the weak language used. Indeed, at a number of regional events with people with autism, parents and local authorities, it was clear that the draft did not make it clear what local authorities and health bodies were expected to do and what individuals could expect from them.

Due to the weakness of the draft guidance, over 2,200 campaigners emailed their MP and hundreds responded to the Government’s consultation. Debates where also held in Parliament. All of this helped make sure that changes were made to meet the expectations of the Act.

What has changed?

The final statutory guidance is much clearer. Stating categorically that local authorities and the NHS:
should provide autism awareness training for all staff
must provide specialist autism training for key staff, such as GPs and community care assessors
cannot refuse a community care assessment for adults with autism based solely on IQ
must appoint an autism lead in their area
have to develop a clear pathway to diagnosis and assessment for adults with autism
need to commission services based on adequate population data.

What are we doing and how you can help

Now that the guidance has been published, there can be no excuses not to change the way services are delivered locally.

To help local authorities and the NHS to deliver this change, the NAS has been commissioned by the Department of Health to develop a central online resource for information regarding the autism strategy. This resource has been developed to support health and social care professionals in the implementation of the strategy and can be found at

Secondly, because we need to make sure all local authorities are implementing the statutory guidance, the NAS is continuing the campaign at a local level.

We have launched a survey that we are asking adult social care leads to fill in. Please take action now to ask your local authority what progress they are making in implementing the adult autism strategy and how they will meet their new legal duties.


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