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Wednesday, 05 December 2018

Care for autistic children 'not good enough' as Government launch review into strategy

Written by Ella Pickover

Care for autistic children is "not good enough", ministers have said, as they launched a review into the Government's autism strategy.

Care Minister Caroline Dinenage (pictured) said that many autistic children are "falling through the cracks".

The Government's autism strategy was last revised in 2015 and only covers adults in England.

Ministers have now pledged to review the strategy and said it will include children as well as adults.

It is estimated that there are around 125,000 autistic children in England.

The National Autistic Society said that some children wait for "years" for a diagnosis and basic support.

It said that a recent report concluded that half of youngsters waited for more than a year for the right educational support, and two fifths were turned away the first time they sought help.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the review will consider how diagnostic services can be developed to improve early diagnosis.

As part of the review into the strategy, officials will gather information from autistic children and their families.

The review will also focus on joining up health, education and care services for autistic children.

It will also look into improving the transition between children's and adult services.

"I want to see young people on the autism spectrum given the same start in life as any other child," said Ms Dinenage.

"Currently outcomes simply aren't good enough, with too many autistic children falling through the cracks and not getting the care and support they need.

"With the right support they can live happy, healthy and independent lives within their own communities so it's vital we have a national autism strategy that works for both children and adults."

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi added: "Schools and colleges already do a great job at supporting children with autism but we know there is more to do to make sure these young people are given the opportunity to unlock their full potential and succeed.

"This pivotal review will help to find out how we can further our understanding of all forms of autism, improve how children and adults are supported and transform the life outcomes for people with autism."

Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, welcomed the announcement, adding: "We hear every day from parents of autistic children that they are waiting for years to get a diagnosis, a decent education or basic support for their children.

"This can have a devastating and lifelong impact, often affecting the whole family's mental health or children's long-term chances in life.

"A recent inquiry found that half of parents wait more than a year for the right education support for their autistic children - and over four in 10 were turned away the first time they asked for an assessment for support for their child. This isn't good enough.

"It is absolutely right that the Government's upcoming autism strategy will cover autistic people of all ages as everyone deserves better support and understanding."

The Department added that supporting people with autism or learning disabilities is one of four clinical priority areas in the NHS's forthcoming long-term plan.

The new joint children and adults autism strategy will be launched in autumn 2019.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski /PA Wire.