Vital support for those with autism

You may have read about the work that West Sussex County Council is undertaking with NHS partners in developing an Autism Framework in response

to the Autism Act 2009 and through this letter I wanted to give further publicity and my personal endorsement to this important work.

It is vital that adults who have a diagnosis of autism should be able to get help, support and understanding from public services in the same way that an adult

with any other more visible or well known disability would be able to.

Autism is often seen as a hidden disability; people diagnosed with autism can often look fine and therefore people can misunderstand their needs and think they don’t need help.

The new framework sets out the council and local NHS commitment to deliver improvements for adults with a diagnosis of autism over the next three years.

The framework covers support for young adults and parents who are leaving education and need help and advice around options for their future and support available.

The aim in the three-year period covered by the framework is to achieve greater recognition of and understanding around autism in West Sussex and that people with autism and their parents and carers will get better support. We are leading work to encourage all public services to recognise and respond more effectively to adults with autism. We are doing this by providing and co-ordinating provision of information and training around autism and help available.

For example we have created new web-pages, and have also funded an alert card that people with autism can obtain and carry which has been supported by

police, ambulance service and other public services.

The council and local health services have also commissioned new services, which will specifically meet the needs of adults with autism.

Examples of this are:

Self-advocacy groups for adults with autism – encouraging adults diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome to support each other and work together to raise awareness and tackle discrimination. This was featured in the January edition of Connections.

Creating expertise and additional capacity in Prevention Assessment Teams – vulnerable adult workers who will have particular expertise in autism will be working in PATs from April 2013.

Specialist expertise in new carers support service contract - specialist support for carers of adults with autism has been built into new carers support contract which the council is in process of letting.

Finally, we have committed to ensuring that adults with autism and their carers are at the centre of all this work by their involvement in the Autism Planning Group. This group will monitor and report on progress around implementing the framework and plan.

We hope that all this work will ensure greater recognition of and understanding around autism in West Sussex and that people with autism and their parents and carers will get better support.

PETER CATCHPOLE

(Con, Holbrook) cabinet member for health and adults’ services, West Sussex County Council, County Hall, Chichester