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Written - The Implementation of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Strategic Action Plan for Wales

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Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services

In April 2008 we launched our ASD Strategic Action Plan for Wales, this was the first of its kind in the world.  The Strategic Action Plan sets out how we would seek to meet the needs of individuals with ASD and their families and carers. It sets a clear direction for local services so that individuals with ASD are supported to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives whatever their age, wherever they live, whatever their gender, social or ethnic background. Importantly, it also sets out our approach to raising awareness and understanding about autism both within the health and social care sectors and more broadly.


Annex 1 outlines our progress in implementing some of the key elements of this Strategic Action Plan. Below I also describe how we now intend to take forward some important new work in relation to adults with ASD.   


Adults with ASD


A key action in our ASD Strategic Action Plan related to the establishment of a Task and Finish Group to identify specific issues that adults with ASD face and take forward work to tackle them, and investigate, evaluate and report on the evidence for effective intervention and models of services for adults


An Adults with ASD Task and Finish Group was established in October 2008, with a membership that comprised representatives from local authorities, the NHS and the voluntary sector as well as Assembly Government officials and was chaired by our ASD Implementation Manager. The Task and Finish Group submitted its final report in October 2009 and a copy of their report is attached as Annex 2.


The Task and Finish Group considered and made recommendations in 5 key areas :

  • Diagnosis
  • Access to services
  • Community and Monitoring support
  • Employment and related issues
  • Housing

In making its recommendations the Task and Finish Group has sought to maximise and improve outcomes for individuals; make the most effective use of the infrastructure already in place including the Welsh Assembly Government funded local ASD leads and the WLGA regional co-ordinators; and build on what ASD services already exist.  


Our response to the Task and Finish Group Report is to accept its recommendations. Our ASD Implementation Manager will now be working with stakeholders to:

  • develop and introduce during 2010-11 an all Wales network offering a diagnostic service for adults together with a pre/post counselling service. We have made available £752,055 over a three year period commencing in 2010-11 for this purpose;
  • develop ASD specific Assessment Tools and awareness raising materials for those involved in the assessment process. 1-off funding of £20,000 in 2010-11 has been made available for this purpose;
  • provide additional monitoring/support for adults with Asperger Syndrome on a regional basis; to host an all Wales Practice Conference on Adults with ASD; to provide training for advocacy personnel working with adults with ASD; and to provide a website information site for adults with ASD and their carers. Funding of £740,000 over three years commencing in 2010-11 has been made available for this purpose;
  • spearhead a publicity campaign targeting employers and businesses throughout Wales including an All Wales Employment publicity campaign; appointing a Wales ASD Employment Ambassador; and awareness raising and training support for staff within Careers Wales, JobCentre Plus and for Disability Employment Advisors. Funding of £170,000 over a three year period commencing in 2010-11 has been made available for this purpose;
  • identifying existing design research and collating into a toolkit to assist architects and others in designing housing for people with ASD; and promote awareness of ASD in frontline housing services. 1-off funding of £10,000 in 2010 -11 has been made available for this purpose.

The Task and Finish Group has also suggested some further areas that the Welsh Assembly Government needs to consider:

  • The mental health needs of people with ASD and the accessibility of mental health services
  • Addressing the findings from the Assembly Government commissioned research on older people with ASD
  • Adults with ASD and the Criminal Justice System.
  • The implications arising for those with ASD in Wales resulting from the DWP Welfare Reforms; and
  • Further and Higher Education.

I have agreed that an Adults with ASD Task and Finish Group should continue to meet in 2010 to consider these matters and to provide advice and recommendations to Welsh Ministers on any steps that may need to be taken. Our ASD Implementation Manager is considering what the membership of this Group should be in order to fulfil its remit


I would like to express my gratitude to the members of the Adults with ASD Task and Finish Group for their work.


Taken together, our responses to the Adults with ASD Task and Finish Group report represent a new investment of nearly £1.7 million over the next three years to develop and provide additional services and support for adults with ASD. These new resources are on top of the £1.8 million funding we have made available to authorities this year and the £1.7 million annually we transferred recurrently into the local authority revenue settlement in 2007 to support children with ASD.


Over a relatively short period of time, significant progress has been made in implementing our ASD Strategic Action Plan and working with stakeholders we will seek to consolidate and sustain what has already been achieved and move on to address new challenges.


Annex 1 to the Written Cabinet Statement on the Implementation of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Strategic Action Plan for Wales


In June 2008 an ASD Action Plan Implementation Manager was appointed to drive forward the many work streams contained within the ASD Strategic Action Plan. To date the following progress has been made


Local Action Plans / Baseline Survey


A local mapping exercise was undertaken by each local authority to identify any gaps in service provision. To support this process we designed a baseline survey questionnaire which was passed to the local ASD lead for completion. Data collated has given a clear indication of the strengths and weaknesses in each area of Wales, and enabled regional identification of need and co-ordination of planning to take place.


Regional Support Team


In May this year a four-strong Regional ASD Support Team based within the Social Services Improvement Agency (SSIA) and funded by the Welsh Assembly Government was recruited to provide guidance to all 22 local ASD leads in the development of their action plans. Consequently focused and tailored work is being undertaken at a local level, and has resulted in an improvement in the quality and impact of local action plans.


Awareness Raising Material


We appointed Workgroup Leaders to take forward the development of awareness raising packages under the co-ordination of our ASD Action Plan Implementation Manager. These groups are being led by members of both Autism Cymru and the National Autistic Society together with the three ASD Regional Support Officers based within the SSIA.


The awareness raising packages will be targeted at a wide range of practitioner groups, including those working in health, education and social services, throughout the age range. Each workgroup will consist of practitioners and people with autism who have demonstrated commitment and practice in ASD and will be drawn from across the statutory and independent sectors. The awareness raising materials are expected to be published in October 2010.


Additionally, an information web-site called “ASD Matters” is being developed on the Health of Wales Information Service (HOWIS). This site will hold the awareness raising packages and also provide regular news updates and examples of good practice. 


A Standards Panel has been set up within the Welsh Assembly Government whose members include officials from Education, Health and the Social Services, with external representation coming from Professor Sue Leekam, Chair in Autism Research, Cardiff University and Professor Ian Stuart Hamilton.  The function of the Standards Panel will be to monitor standards within the range of ASD awareness raising material.


Older Person’s Research


This innovative research project undertaken jointly by Glamorgan and Bangor University commenced on 1st October 2008. Their final report has been recently submitted to the Welsh Assembly Government and is currently under consideration.   


Quality Standards in Education for Pupils with ASD


The publication of Quality Standards in Education for Pupils with ASD is a key action point within the ASD strategy and a small task and finish group, comprising representatives of local authorities, special schools, voluntary organisations and parents has been established to update the original draft documents in order to ensure compliance with the ASD Strategic Action Plan itself.


The Standards will include an overview of ASD, and issues and sections for consideration include Local Education Authority (LEA) policy; identification and assessment; multi-agency support and collaboration; intervention; pupil participation; supporting parents and carers and education provision including managements and training. The last section will comprise of a self-evaluation tool for schools.  


It is expected that the final draft consultation will be ready to issue early in the New Year.  


Cardiff University Chair in Autism Research


We have been pleased to be able to support the endeavours of Autism Cymru and Autism Speaks which has led to the pioneering establishment of the Cardiff University Chair in Autism Research, the first such named autism chair in the UK. We are already drawing upon the knowledge and skills of Professor Sue Leekam in the work of implementing the ASD Strategic Action Plan.