Nottinghamshire County Council has confirmed it is dropping a proposal to scrap its Adults with Asperger’s Team after concerns were raised by people with autism and their families.
The proposal was made as part of the council’s Budget Challenge 2014/15, in which the council has to save £154 million over the next three years. Its consultation on its proposed cuts received more than 38,000 responses.
Established in 2009, the Adults with Asperger’s Team provides social care support, care planning and personal budgets to about 200 people and was the first specialist social care team in the UK. It was set up in recognition of the fact that people with Asperger’s syndrome were falling between learning disability and mental health services, and the team is regarded as an example of best practice and is frequently held up as so by the government.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) helped local organisations such as Autistic Nottingham, a user-led support group, to marshal the support of their members and the autism community more widely to oppose the cut and have their voices heard.
Tom Purser, senior policy and participation officer at the NAS, said: “[This] announcement will come as a tremendous relief to the many people who contacted the NAS to express their concern about the proposal. We have worked to support local people and groups such as Autistic Nottingham to speak up and have their views heard by the Council, and we’re delighted that they have been listened to.
“Nearly 5,000 adults in Nottinghamshire are thought to be living with autism, and it’s crucial that appropriate support is available to those who need it.”
Matthew McVeagh from Autistic Nottingham added that the organisation was relieved to hear the council’s decision. “This is a great result for people with Asperger syndrome in Nottinghamshire and by extension elsewhere, as it is essential that people with autistic conditions receive appropriate care and help everywhere in the country,” he said.
“In general services for autistic people are growing so it would have been a backwards step if the Nottinghamshire County team, nationally considered a flagship scheme and example of best practice, had been ended. We now look forward to continuing to work with the Team to improve the lives of adults with Asperger's in Nottinghamshire.”
Councillor Muriel Weisz, chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Adult Social Care and Health Committee, said: “Asperger’s is a complex condition that is often misunderstood.
“It has been clear from the feedback that we have received from families who have benefitted from the Asperger’s team’s work that there is a risk that we could lose valuable specialist knowledge by disbanding it.
“We are having to make difficult decisions with all of our services due to reducing grants and increasing demand for key services, but we have taken on board people’s comments from the consultation by revising some of our proposals where we have been able to do so.”