I want staff in health and social care services to understand I have autism and how this affects me.
I hear these words – or variations of them – frequently in my work. It is of course important for social workers to have a good understanding of autism – as indeed they should of other factors, both personal and situational, which impact on individuals having the lives they want for themselves. Our effective engagement - working alongside people to enable and empower them to have choice and control over their care and support - has a positive impact in promoting independence.
The recently launched Adult Autism Strategy Guidance consultation is another opportunity for our profession to not only provide a lead on how social work can serve the needs of those with autism, but to identify the knowledge and support we require to provide the best support we can. The regulations and guidance supporting the Care Act already include requirements for social workers to be skilled in this area and to provide advice and support - or seek more advice from trainers and assessors where their experience may be lacking.
Overall though, I believe social workers are often best placed to understand and adapt their ways of working to accommodate the complexities and challenges a life with autism presents. And it should go without saying such challenges involve carers, family and friends, not just the individuals themselves. Our awareness of this is crucial.
On the day of the consultation launch, the 42 winning bids for the autism innovation fund were also announced. Each of these worthy projects will now receive a share of the £1million set aside to help encourage innovation in – and provision of – person centred services. I am very pleased so many of the successful proposals have solid social work values and outcomes at their heart. I believe the fund presents an opportunity for these projects to demonstrate social work based models of care and support in action - delivering better life outcomes built on cooperation and community values.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health is working with The College of Social Work on the scoping and development of a comprehensive Continuing Professional Development (CPD) framework for social workers. One of the early priorities will be the development of CPD materials to better inform our work with people with autism of all ages using the updated strategy Think Autism as the starting point. The project, now underway, will develop curriculum guidance, using learning drawn from workshops with social workers, their managers and other sources.
Clearly, there remains a strong will and desire to raise awareness and drive up the quality and proliferation of services and organisation designed to support the autistic community. As social workers we are pleased and proud to play our part.