Autism strategy ‘could waste money’

People with autism are at risk of being let down by the government, a group of MPs has warned.

The all-party parliamentary group on autism has written to Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons' influential public accounts committee, expressing its concern about the limited progress being made in implementing the Autism Act 2010.

Moves to ensure staff are conducting community care assessments and unfulfilled commitments on local leadership and data collection have triggered MPs' concerns.

Their letter warned: "Without an ability to identify people with autism and a better understanding of autism across the public sector, we are at risk of failing to focus effectively on people's needs and as the 2009 National Audit Office (NAO) report points out, in danger of wasting money."

The government was supposed to have made good on its March 2010 autism strategy, which called on local authorities and the NHS to improve staff training, the identification and diagnosis of autism in adults and planning of services for people with autism.

But an NAO memorandum published last summer flagged up areas of concern, despite acknowledging progress was being made in some areas.

The prime minister was questioned on the issue by another Tory MP, former Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan, earlier this month. She brought forward the private member's bill that led to the changes, which campaigners hope will help unlock the full potential of people with autism.

"We want all adults living with autism to be able to live fulfilling and rewarding lives within a society that properly accepts them," David Cameron said.

He noted a review of the government's autism strategy is due between March and October next year, adding: "It is vital that it is a proper cross-government effort, and after her remarks I will make sure that it is dealt with in a proper and co-ordinated way."