Watching brief: BAME autism support
Too many people with autism in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are missing out on vital support, says Simon Shaw from the National Autistic Society:
Families of all backgrounds and ethnicities living with autism commonly struggle to access a diagnosis and support, but the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) recent Diverse Perspectives report showed that language and cultural differences among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities can create additional barriers.
Ethnicity should never be an obstacle to accessing the right support, which can often be a lifeline for individuals and families affected by autism. A coordinated effort from decision makers, service providers and faith and community groups would go a long way to ensuring that the needs of families from BAME communities are met.
We first started our investigation into the challenges faced by families living with autism in BAME communities in 2012, after concluding that they had been underrepresented in a nationwide survey we carried out earlier that year.
So we approached organisations and individuals working with families affected by autism within BAME communities in England to learn about their needs and experiences. With their help, we set up 13 focus groups involving about 130 parents, siblings, carers and adults with autism.
Their opinions form the basis of Diverse Perspectives. The findings reinforce previous research that showed most families affected by autism struggle to get a diagnosis, access the services they need and integrate their child within their local community, whatever their ethnicity. But they also suggest that certain additional challenges are more prevalent within BAME communities.
Diversion signs-liaison and diversion services
Liaison and diversion and forensic learning disability services can make a big difference to whether a person offends again – but services are patchy across the country and improvement is needed. Editor Dan Parton reports:
When Home Secretary Theresa May delivered a speech in July at an event hosted by the Care not Custody Coalition, she reaffirmed the government’s commitment to liaison and diversion services in the criminal justice system for people with mental health issues or learning disabilities. This, allied to £25 million in funding for liaison and diversion that was announced in January, points to a brighter future for the services.
Liaison and diversion – which seeks to identify, provide support for and, where appropriate, divert people with mental ill health or learning disabilities away from criminal justice settings such as police stations and magistrates’ courts and into specialist treatment or social care services – has had political support for some years, going back to the previous Labour administration. Yet progress in developing a national service has been frustratingly slow.