Headlines: December 4th, 2008

Local authorities in England have been accused of failing adults with autism. Research from the National Autistic Society shows that only one out of 149 local councils knew how many adults with autism were living in its area and the study also found that almost two thirds of authorities were not complying with a Government recommendation that councils should have a named staff member who was responsible for autism.

The Society said the London Borough of Merton was leading the way as the only authority to know how many local adults had autism and in having a named individual with responsibility for autism. The research represents the first time that all local authorities have been rated on their approach to adults with autism and includes an online table to track progress. The NAS has invited councils to keep it informed of developments and so improve their ratings.

The research found that 27 per cent of local authorities had plans to address the issue of not knowing the numbers of autistic adults and 11 per cent acknowledged the need for action in appointing a team or individual with responsibility for the area. Following the launch of the NAS ‘I Exist’ campaign earlier this year the Department of Health appointed a specialist advisor for autism and the Government announced measures to research how many adults have autism. Of the adults with autism surveyed for the earlier report, one in three were found to have experienced severe mental health difficulties because of a lack of support.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the Society said, “We strongly welcome the good practice of those local authorities who are working hard to transform the lives of adults with autism and their families. The results in our table, however, show there is a long way to go. It is simply unacceptable that many local authorities have no clear picture of how many adults with autism are in their area and there remains a lack of responsibility for meeting their needs.”