Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 15TH DECEMBER, 2014
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 3RD NOVEMBER, 2014
"561 AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER: COMMUNITY MONITORING AND SUPPORT PROJECT (DSS) –
The Autistic Project Lead Officer, in summarising the report, advised the Committee that this was a relatively small project and was aimed at providing a preventative service.
In 2009, an Adult Task and Finish Group established by the Welsh Government issued a report describing significant inconsistencies across Wales in services provided to adults with ASD. As a consequence, Local Authorities were given the opportunity to bid for grant funding. In partnership with Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan Council applied for funding to establish a Community Monitoring and Support project across part of the South East Wales Region. This was agreed by Welsh Government in April 2011, indicatively until March 2015
The service would offer short term low level support targeted at intervention which would promote the independence and autonomy of adults with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. In essence the project helped support those individuals who were not eligible or did not meet the criteria for support from Social Services.
The type of support included offering individuals a clear point of contact for information and advice, reducing the risk of crisis and helping prevent enduring mental health problems by encouraging socialisation and directing individuals to social groups, local events and activities. The project would also profile unmet need and highlight any gaps in provision which could then be relayed to local steering groups and the Welsh Government for consideration. Funding for the project was allocated via Welsh Government on an annual basis and for 2014/15 amounted to £40,000. The service had been able to create many innovative opportunities for social contacts, such as a monthly forum that provided a means for adults to influence how the service developed and acted as a conduit for information to and from the local ASD Steering Group. A number of areas of good practice developed by the scheme locally had been adopted by other areas in Wales. For example, the Orange Wallet scheme was now providing improved access to public transport across Wales.
The project aimed to improve the social skills of individuals in order to help them focus and to improve their life chances. Close working arrangements had been employed with the Job Centre in order to improve employment skills and opportunities for people with autism and Asperger’s. The project was able to secure Welsh Government funding to run a specialist employment project in which specialist materials had been created and a job skills workshop delivered. As a result of this project, excellent links had been forged with local Job Centre Plus staff and the service had been able to delivery workshops jointly with them. To date 25 clients had been able to access the courses, 12 of them were residents within the Vale. Of these three were now in work, four were volunteering and three were actively engaged in the process of job seeking.
A Committee Member relayed their thanks to the Project Lead Officer for such an inspiring report which was a clear example of the effectiveness of a preventative service and showed how innovative approaches could make such a difference. Further to this, the Project Lead Officer advised that the need to tackle social isolation was very important and that the monthly forum, even though it was just a meeting, showed what could be achieved through a simple solution. The forum meetings allowed its members an improved routine and the chance to meet with other people of a similar disposition.
In referring to the short term funding arrangements of the project that would end March 2015, a Committee Member queried whether there was any indication from the Welsh Government as to whether funding would be renewed. In response, the Project Lead Officer advised that the current indication was that the funding would be renewed, but since then there had been a ministerial change. The Committee was advised that the funding for the project management role would be within the Council’s revenue settlement grant from 2015/16. This however differentiated from the Welsh Government grant that was allocated to support the project and its associated activities.
In referring to the "Socialeyes" social skills training programme, a Committee Member queried as to what was happening and whether any timescales could be provided. In response the Committee was advised that this programme had only recently commenced and had been based within Cardiff as this was the area where most of the clients resided. A number of individuals from the Vale were also part of the skills training which would take place within a meeting room that all individuals were familiar with and the programme was run by a tutor who had been diagnosed with autism.
In response to a query regarding an increase in the number of young people being diagnosed with autism, the Project Lead Officer advised that around 1 in 100 individuals would be diagnosed with autism. Significant improvements had been made in relation to the way that individuals were diagnosed. An important aspect of this had been around the improvement in training and in raising awareness within primary schools. The time to diagnose an individual was on average six months and 50% of cases showed that individuals had some form of autism. The Project Lead Officer stated that as a result of increased awareness and better pathways, there had been an increase in the number of people requiring support. Some individuals had not been diagnosed until they were in their 50s, 60s or 70s, but there were clear indications that the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome for the individual. At an early stage the brain’s ability to respond to treatment was greatly improved and so better outcomes could be achieved. Diagnosis was now far more accurate, particularly as a consequence of better multi-agency working.
The Chairman queried as to how individuals would be made aware of the project. In response the Committee was advised that this was the project’s biggest challenge as there was no way of knowing the true level of autism within the population. A range of promotional activities had been carried out such as the distribution of leaflets within doctors’ surgeries and libraries, the creation of a Facebook page and a website to highlight the work of the project.
In considering the report the Committee was keen for Cabinet to be made aware of the good work undertaken by the support project and also to highlight the issue of the short term funding and the need to ensure that the continued level of resources were available.
(1) T H A T the work being undertaken by the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Community Monitoring and Support Project be noted.
(2) T H A T annual updates on the work of the project be received by the Committee.
(3) T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet and that Cabinet be requested to ensure that adequate resources are available for the ongoing work carried out by the project to continue.
Reasons for recommendations
(1&2) To keep Members apprised of the work of the ASD Community Monitoring and Support Project.
(3) To ensure that sufficient resources are available to continue and progress the work of the project."
Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 3rd November, 2014