A large majority – 74% - of carers of a person with autism have no support from their local authority and this often has a detrimental effect on their mental health, a survey has found.

The survey by charity the National Autistic Society (NAS) found that 81% of respondents said they had experienced anxiety due to a lack of support, with 64% saying they had had depression. In addition, 70% said they had experienced isolation and 61% said it had put a strain on their marriage or relationship. Yet 80% of respondents had never had their caring needs assessed by their local authority.

Caring for a person with autism also often affects people’s ability to work, the survey found. A third of carers under 40 said they'd like to work but can't because of their role as a carer, while others have had to give up work, reduce hours, work part-time or take a lower paid job in order to care for someone with autism. Perhaps more worryingly, 96% of carers said they were worried about their son or daughter's future when they are no longer able to support them. Nevertheless, despite all the difficulties listed, most carers (52%) said loving and caring for someone with autism can be rewarding and life enriching.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said: “The work that carers do is absolutely invaluable and local authorities must show carers the recognition they deserve by fully assessing their needs and providing them with all the help and support they require. “Having a child with autism means many parents are forced to give up their jobs and put their lives on hold to care for their child and yet they're getting no help or support in return. This has to end. Carers' legislation and national policies have given clear rights and entitlements to those who care. It is up to local authorities to ensure these are put into practice otherwise they risk failing thousands of families across the UK.”