To receive an update on the autism strategy and pathway.
Consideration was given to an update on the Autism Strategy and Pathway. The update covered progress on the implementation of the strategy, reported on the results of the on-line diagnosis pilot with Healios, highlighted action being taken to address long waiting times for assessment/diagnosis and provision of post-diagnostic support, and provided assurance that focus is on all ages. The vision, objectives, and outcomes of the strategy and pathway were also described in detail. The digitally enabled pathway redesign for children and young people and for adults were also described in detail.
In discussion, the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health clarified the role of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) and noted the upcoming changes to the CCG at the national and regional level which will affect how Rotherham as a place delivers the Autism strategy and pathway in the future.
Members lauded the progress that has been made in providing training to the people who work closely with children and young people with autism, as well as in providing services to support neurodiversity ahead of official assessment and diagnosis.
Members requested further details regarding the feedback from strategy users. The response from officers illustrated the overall positive feedback with the caveat that people have noted that they would like to see more information regarding mental health needs of autistic people, employment building opportunities. Further, it was noted that the Autism Partnership Board brings stakeholders together to provide feedback on the development of the strategy and its ongoing implementation.
Members requested further assurances around digital inclusion. The response from officers averred that the delivery of education as a whole has become more reliant on technology, so schools have been working to provide access for children.
Members remarked on the pathway visualisation that could have been presented in a more reader-friendly way. This feedback would be passed to the publisher of this visualisation.
Clarification was requested and provided that 14 is the current number of referrals per week.
Members requested information regarding research into genetic causes of autism. Officers noted that autism is common across the whole of the country, and good practice is shared to enable services to meet the needs of children and young people with autism and enable them to be as happy and successful as they can be. Research, it was noted, was the purview of the universities, and any available research is taken on board and responded to as part of good practice.
Members requested further information regarding provision of mental health services to children and young people with autism. The response from officers noted the first line of response for children in school through the programme called With Me in Mind. The CAMHS as a while has launched an app for young people ages 11 to 18 who can go online to book an appointment and engage with a mental health professional through the app. This has been successful because it is less intimidating than accessing services in person with parents, etc. As children return to schools, it is priority to consider how best to provide training and support to the workforce to be able to better support the children and young people themselves. The priority of gathering feedback from service users was also emphasised, so that their perspectives inform the further development of the pathways.
Members asked for an update on the working through the waiting list for assessment. The response from officers averred it would take about three years to work through the waiting list. The extra capacity had been built in so that in addition to meeting current demand, the services could also chip away at the waiting list. Current capacity was keeping pace with demand, but not chipping away at the waiting list. A considered and dedicated amount of resource, accountability and attention was focused on reducing the waiting list, and HELIOS was also helping release capacity to this end.
More clarification was requested around the waiting list and how the progress would be measured and reported to scrutiny. The response from officers provided assurances that the children on the waiting list were currently receiving support, but they were not yet diagnosed. A lot of work had been done to support consistent response across schools and strengthen their understanding of the pathway. As the pandemic eases, more focus can be given to areas of concern; however, currently the services are conscious of the need not to overload the schools as they are coping with increased pressure on staff and resources during the pandemic.
1. That the next update be submitted in 12 months’ time, to include a specific update on the waiting list and waiting times for assessments.