The government have published a five-year strategy for improving the lives of autistic people and their families and carers in England.
Backed by nearly £75 million in the first year, the strategy aims to tackle the inequalities and barriers autistic people face so they can live independent and fulfilled lives.
It also aims to speed up diagnoses and provide better access to health and social care for autistic people of all ages.
The funding includes £40 million through the NHS Long Term Plan to improve community support and prevent avoidable admissions of autistic people and those with a learning disability, and £18.5 million to prevent crises and improve the quality of inpatient mental health settings.
An implementation plan that will lay the foundations in the first year, for what the government aims to achieve over the course of the next five years, has also been published.
It will be refreshed in subsequent years, in line with future Spending Reviews, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid commented: “Improving the lives of autistic people is a priority and this new strategy, backed by almost £75 million in the first year, will help us create a society that truly understands and includes autistic people in all aspects of life. It will reduce diagnosis waiting times for children and adults and improve community support for autistic people. This is crucial in reducing the health inequalities they face, and the unacceptable life expectancy gap that exists today.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges many autistic people already face, such as loneliness and social isolation, and anxiety.
This new strategy has been developed with the views and experiences of autistic people provided in response to the government’s call for evidence in 2019.
The strategy will run until 2026 and aims to improve understanding and acceptance of autism within society; strengthen access to education and support positive transitions into adulthood; support more autistic people into employment; tackle health and care inequalities; build the right support in the community and supporting people in inpatient care; and improve support within the criminal and youth justice systems.