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Lynne Neagle MS, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being

First published:
16 July 2021
Last updated:

In our Programme for Government published on 15 June 2021, we set out our intention to provide effective, high quality and sustainable healthcare for the people of Wales. One of our main commitments to achieve this is to introduce an autism statutory code of practice on the delivery of autism services across Wales. Today, only a couple of months into this Senedd term, I am pleased to say that we are already on course to meet this commitment with the publication of the final statutory Code of Practice on the Delivery of Autism Services.

The Code provides clarity to local health boards, NHS trusts, local authorities and Regional Partnership Boards regarding the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act and the NHS (Wales) Act 2006 and the responsibilities and services they are required to provide to support autistic people in their day to day lives. The Code will come into effect on 1 September 2021. The work we have undertaken to get to this position could not have been completed without the input of our stakeholders, most importantly autistic people and their parents and carers, and with third sector organisations, practitioners and services delivering support. I would like to thank them all for their help in getting to where we are today.

Now that the Code is published we will not sit back, I want to drive its implementation and make sure the contributions that our stakeholders have made makes a difference in the services they access. We have also published a clear delivery plan alongside the Code which outlines the first year of priorities for this Senedd Term. The priorities in this plan include areas such as recovery of services following the Covid 19 pandemic, inclusion of the Welsh Language in service delivery and support for autistic people who identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic. The effective implementation of this first phase of priorities will rely on collaborative working and learning from feedback we receive from autistic people, their families and their carers.

We are already working with Regional Partnership Boards to support the implementation of the Code, this includes a small grant (£4,000) to support the development of an autism infrastructure of stakeholder groups and a monitoring framework, and this will inform the work of new regional autism champions, a requirement of the Code.

Running alongside this, we have also committed to undertaking a review of all age neurodevelopmental services and this work commenced in February this year. The review will take a whole systems approach to understand the current situation across the seven regions of Wales, including identifying the demand, capacity and design of neurodevelopmental services for children, young people and adults. The review is due to be completed by March 2022, and the final report will include options for future service improvement to create sustainable services including our workforce needs. The results from this review will also inform the second phase of the delivery plan 2022-23.

I am aware that autism is only one of a range of neurodevelopmental conditions, and all of these conditions bring challenges for children and adults and their parents and carers. Our focus on autism services has given us a solid foundation from which we can consider the wider needs of the neurodiverse population. The lessons we have learnt from developing this Code of Practice will inform our plans for developing sustainable needs based services across Wales.