The government's new national strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021-26 has been released today. In it, the Department sets out a bold vision for how autistic people’s lives should be better. The Department of Health & Social Care has set strong goals, which we are delighted to support. We are particularly looking forward to working with the government to develop the research action plan.
This strategy replaces the previous Think Autism strategy released in 2015 and comes with a multi-million pound pledge of investment, including £75 million in the first year.
While we welcome the new Autism Strategy for England, it is what happens next that matters.
This was the easy part. Perpetual abuses and systemic neglect cannot be wished away. There are no shortcuts to resolving entrenched health inequalities or widespread underemployment. The government's last two Autism Strategies promised much and delivered little.
Now comes the hard work. To make breakthroughs, we need to pinpoint precisely why bad things keep happening and start properly testing solutions to see if they work. We've guessed away autistic people's lives for far too long. It’s past time we started learning how to succeed.
The next Spending Review will test the government's commitment to this strategy. The initial implementation plan is welcome, but it is a one-year plan for a five-year strategy. Most of the funding discussed today is already inside NHS budgets. Serious investments in years two and three of the strategy will be required if the government is to truly “level up” its commitment to autistic people.
Autistica is committed to doing our bit. We are currently working with autistic people, families, professionals, policy-makers and scientists, to build credible long-term implementation plans for our and the government's goals. For example, we are already collaborating with NHS England to test health checks for every autistic person. The Autistica health checks were designed with autistic people and clinicians and will soon be trialled in NHS services.
It's great that the government celebrates that work in the new Autism Strategy. Now they must deliver the resources to implement the checks, if they are to offer parity of healthcare for autistic people.
Together, we can make more of a difference.