Package of improvements to services for children with autism moves a step closer

Published: Friday, February 8, 2019

Councillors have given their backing to a package of proposals to significantly enhance the support provided to families affected by autism (ASD).

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Under plans which were drawn up as a result of wide-ranging discussions with parents, teachers, educational psychologists and NHS professionals, the council wants to create a new service for families of children who have been diagnosed with ASD

The aim is to provide a better and more seamless service – and following last night’s decision by councillors on the education and children’s services scrutiny committee to approve the proposals, they will now be the subject of a detailed and comprehensive public consultation.

The borough’s support services for children with ASD are currently split into two distinct components – one that supports the under-fives and another that supports older children.

Under the new proposals, the two would be combined to offer a new integrated and more cohesive service.

This would ensure better communication links between staff teams, allow better longer-term planning for children to ensure their needs are met as they grow – while also reducing the risk of children being becoming “lost in the system” while transferring from one arm of the service to another.

It would also ensure a better availability of services all year round – as current services are closely aligned with schools which means that provision can be less effective during school holidays.

There would also be a rebalancing to ensure that additional resources are put into post-diagnosis care and support for children and their families.

Overall the proposals are designed to achieve the following:

• enable effective multi-disciplinary planning and delivery of services for children and families throughout the entire process from emerging needs to post diagnostic support.

• provide parents with a single point of access particularly in times of need/crisis.

• enable the service to provide a timely response when issues are escalating.

• ensure there is a graduated response in the support available to children and their families including “ad hoc” support when families might consider there is greatest need as well as planned support through parent / carer training and specific types of intervention.

• keep an overview of all children with ASD and better track their progress and more closely review their outcomes.

• ensure there is a larger team with a better range of specialist support available, effective joint working of professionals and multi-agency triaging.

• ensure appropriate post-diagnostic follow up takes place

These proposed changes are designed to tailor these specialist services to better meet a growing demand from local families.

The number of children diagnosed with ASD has grown significantly in recent years. In 2010 the number of children in Wandsworth with a diagnosis was 495. This year the number has climbed to 1,205.

Children’s services spokesman Cllr Sarah McDermott said: “We have been speaking to parents, teachers, NHS staff and others with expertise in this field as we seek to improve the services we provide to children with ASD and their families.

“The current service has two aspects - one that supports the under- fives and another that cares for older children. We think it makes sense to combine the two so that it offers a more seamless and unified service with better communication between teams, better availability all year round - especially during school holidays – and better longer term planning which also reduces the chances of children getting lost in gaps between the two services.

“Having drawn up these plans following extensive public and professional consultation we will now be undertaking a fresh round of detailed consultation to gauge the opinion of the families we think will benefit from these changes as it is important to hear their voices and listen to their views.”

For more information on the proposals backed last night people can read a more detailed report on the council’s website.