Autism Strategy 2021-26

Year of Publication: 

The government has published a new national autism strategy. Backed by nearly £75 million in the first year, it aims to speed up diagnosis and improve support and care for autistic people. The funding includes £40 million through the NHS Long Term Plan to improve capacity in crisis services and support children with complex needs in inpatient care.

The 5-year strategy was developed following engagement with autistic people, their family and carers. It will support autistic children and adults through better access to education, more help to get into work, preventing avoidable admissions to healthcare settings, and training for prison staff to better support prisoners with complex needs.

The strategy will run until 2026 and aims to:

  • improve understanding and acceptance of autism within society: developing and testing an initiative to improve the public’s understanding of autistic people – both the strengths and positives as well as the challenges, working with autistic people, their families and the voluntary sector. This will help people recognise the diversity of the autistic community – that every autistic person is different. It includes improving understanding of the strengths and positives of being autistic, as well as the challenges people might face in their daily lives and how distressed behaviour can manifest itself
  • strengthen access to education and support positive transitions into adulthood: testing and expanding a school-based identification programme based on a pilot in Bradford from 10 to over 100 schools over the next 3 years. Early findings from the pilot show children are being identified earlier and getting support quicker
  • support more autistic people into employment: improving the accessibility of job centres for autistic people, to get them the right help to find jobs or employment programmes
  • tackle health and care inequalities: providing £13 million of funding to reduce diagnosis waiting times and increase availability of post-diagnostic support for children and adults, and address backlogs of people waiting made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • build the right support in the community and supporting people in inpatient care: providing £40 million as part of 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
  • improve support within the criminal and youth justice systems: reviewing findings from the call for evidence on neurodiversity, and developing a toolkit to educate frontline staff about this, and the additional support people might need.

Key commitments in the first year include:

• continue our work to ensure our Jobcentre network is welcoming and supportive to autistic customers, developing and testing new approaches through our Health Model Offices.

• continue to ensure that through the Disability Confident Scheme, we promote the skills and abilities of autistic people, and signpost employers to resources on supporting autistic people 

• continue to promote employment support programmes, including Access to Work and IPES to autistic people who are at least a year away from work 

• continue to recognise the specific needs of autistic people during the COVID-19 pandemic, and take appropriate action to mitigate a disproportionate impact on autistic people