HC Deb 08 September 2003 vol 410 cc165-6W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what day care facilities are available to those suffering from autism; and if he will make a statement on the importance of interaction to autism sufferers. [127954]

Dr. Ladyman

Many people with autism also have a learning disability and may make use of learning disability day care services. Where people on the autistic spectrum have mental health problems, they may find mental health day care services helpful. Adults with Asperger's Syndrome or higher functioning autism are not precluded from using learning disability services, where appropriate, and may ask statutory services for an assessment of their social functioning and communications skills in order to establish their level of need.

Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what training is given to carers of autistic children; what other support services are available; and on what wage levels carers are placed. [127955]

Dr. Ladyman

The Learning Disability White Paper, "Valuing People" (Cm 5086), published in March 2001, details training and qualification requirements for staff working with adults and children who have both autism and learning disability. It states that, from April 2002, all new entrants to learning disability care services should be registered for qualification on the learning disability awards framework (LDAF) and that by 2005, 50 per cent. of front-line staff should have achieved at least National Vocational Qualification Level 2.

The LDAF contains two vocational qualifications—a level 2 certificate and a level 3 certificate in working with people with learning disabilities. Both these certificates include a module about autism. The LDAF modules can be used as part of the induction and foundation training that new care staff should undertake.

Parent carers of autistic children receive help from local authorities (under section 17 of The Children Act) and the National Health Service on how best they can support their child. This could include skills training, both on an individual basis and in groups. Much of this support is provided in partnership with parents in their own homes and takes into account the family's individual circumstances. Other support available includes the National Autistic Society's "Help" programme, which offers training to parents in caring for their newly diagnosed autistic children. The Government helped to fund the development of this programme.

Carers of people with autism may be employed by local authorities, local or national voluntary sector organisations such as the National Autistic Society and the Disabilities Trust or private sector care providers. The wage levels of paid carers are a matter for individual employers and would take account of the grade and experience of the individual staff.

Linda Perham

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will commission an economic analysis of the(a) cost in public funds of treatment of autism and the (b) benefits of funding preventative support services for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. [127855]

Dr. Ladyman

We have no plans to commission an economic analysis of the costs associated with autism. A paper on this subject in 2001 by Jarbrink and Knapp ("Autism" Vol 5(1) pp 7–22) gives estimates of the costs of autism and points up the long-term cost-effectiveness of early interventions. Early diagnosis and early intervention are key issues being addressed as part of the development of the children's national service framework (NSF), which will set national standards for health and social services departments. We have already announced that autism will be used as an exemplar in the NSF. This is being informed by the National Autism Plan for Children which was published in March.

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