Autism provision not good enough says leading expert prof Simon Baron Cohen

SBCCambridge University professor and top researcher into autism has urged government to rethink current provision for autistic individuals in the UK.

Talking to John Bercow, speaker of the Houses of Parliament in the UK who also has an autistic son, at a National Autism Society (NAS) convention he was said to be underwhelmed by improvements into social care since the introduction of the Autism Act in 2009.

Prof Baron Cohen who is director at the Cambridge autism research centre said that he the optimism brought on by the Autism Act has been diminished by a lack of spending – and even suggested punishing regions who do not offer a good enough service.

Mr Bercow said:

“The Autism Act in 2009 was a cause of celebration, because at last people with autism – especially adults who had been under the radar for services and support – were finally being discussed by the House of Commons. But four years on, Baron-Cohen, who accepts it is still early days, is worried.

“All the Autism Act did was to call on the Department of Health to implement an autism strategy. That was fine, although it left the details to be worked out.

“In 2010, the DH published the Autism Strategy and on paper it looked good. But good intentions – to ensure rapid access to diagnosis, and a quick route to the clinical pathway of receiving life-long post-diagnosis support – need extra spending, and even penalties on those regions that are not delivering an excellent service.

“Regretfully, in too many parts of the country, services are still very patchy.”

A recent survey of 1100 people by the National Autistic Society (NAS) shows that four years on too many adults with the condition are still waiting for the support that they need.

  •    36% of people with autism said they need help to wash and dress.  But only 7% get this support from social services.
  •    77% of people with autism say they need help to manage money.  But only 4% get this support from social services.
  •    53% of people with autism say they want help to find work. But only 10% get the support to do so.

This year, the Government is reviewing the impact of the Autism Act and the NAS has launched the ‘Push for Action’ campaign to ensure that local and national decision makers continue putting the needs of adults with autism front and centre.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS said:

 “It’s great that Professor Baron-Cohen has added his voice to our call for better everyday support for people with autism.

 “We’ve seen great strides forward in some parts of the country since the Autism Act with implemented in 2009, but progress has been too slow and too patchy.

 “The Government’s Autism Act review this year gives people with autism a second chance to be heard – we need to make it count.”