The autism sector has seen considerable changes since NPC published A life less ordinary in September 2007.
Changes in policy, most notably 2009’s Autism Act and the adult autism strategy, have won the attention of government departments and helped raise awareness of the condition more widely. Changes in funding mean that autism charities, like many others, are feeling the squeeze as local government commissioners attempt to cut costs and reduce fees charged to deliver services. Nearly half the charities NPC surveyed for this report expected some decrease in their fee income as a result of government spending cuts.
Finally, there have been significant changes within the sector itself. People with autism are increasingly involved with developing policy and services around their condition. The development and use of research is being encouraged. And autism charities have forged closer relationships and working partnerships.
In Changing lives, NPC examines these developments in more depth, and discusses the implications they are having on the autism sector. The report sets out five priorities for charities and funders to think about: helping charities to adapt to a changing environment by funding core costs; maintaining lobbying work; networking and sharing good practice; developing pilot projects to fit with new government priorities; and maintaining non-statutory services.
Autism charities are facing tough times, especially as many of them rely on local government contracts. Services such as lesiure and respite care are often a lifeline for people with autism and their families, but they are likely to be the hardest hit.
Sarah Hedley, report author
NPC also carried out a detailed analysis of the National Autistic Society, funded by the Clothworkers’ Foundation. You can read the results of this analysis here.