Agenda Item No. 5


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 2nd November, 2015


Report of the Director of Social Services


Autistic Spectrum Disorder: Community Monitoring and Support Project


Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Members with an update on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Community Monitoring and Support Project and to outline future plans.


  1. That the work being undertaken by the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Community Monitoring and Support Project is noted by Scrutiny Committee.
  2. That Scrutiny Committee continues to receive annual updates on the work of the project.

Reason for the Recommendations

1. & 2. To keep Members appraised of the work of the ASD Community Monitoring and Support Project and its achievements to date.


  1. In 2009, an Adult Task and Finish Group established by the Welsh Government issued a report describing how service provision for adults with ASD was very inconsistent across Wales. 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, initially for 3 years but then extended until September 2015.
  2. Funding previously provided as a grant has now been included in the RSG. Sufficient funding has been identified from the ring-fenced amounts for Cardiff and the Vale to continue providing the service. RCT or Merthyr did not identify any financial contribution and so the service has ceased in those areas.
  1. The Welsh Government funding was specifically allocated for the creation of a service for adults with high functioning autism and Asperger's syndrome who are at risk of social isolation or vulnerable to mental ill health and who are not able to access or not eligible to access statutory services. It enabled the Council to employ three part-time Community Project Workers with responsibility for establishing and delivering the service across the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tydfil. As stated in paragraph 3, the scope of service has decreased following the change in funding in September and one member of staff is retiring.
  2. The Adult Autism Advice service offers short-term, targeted intervention which promotes the independence and autonomy of adults with High Functioning Autism and Asperger's syndrome by:
  • providing them with a clear point of contact for information and advice;
  • ensuring that those who are eligible for statutory support are re-directed to existing services.
  • signposting those who do not meet the eligibility criteria for statutory social services to appropriate services located in their communities;
  • reducing the risk of crisis and helping to prevent enduring mental health problems by encouraging socialisation and directing individuals to social groups, local events and activities; and
  • profiling any unmet need and highlighting any gaps in provision which can then be relayed to local steering groups and to the Welsh Government for consideration.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Access to the service is via telephone, on-line engagements, face-to-face meetings or by referral from partner agencies. To date, the service has been contacted by over 400 different people. Some are simple requests for information while others result in multiple contacts over extended periods, depending on need. 23 clients have more than 10 separate records for different issues. A data-gathering exercise was carried out in the last quarter of 2014. This provides a breakdown of the types of contact and differentiates between contacts in group settings which are not normally recorded.
  2. Enquiries cover a wide variety of issues, from people seeking information on obtaining an assessment/ diagnosis of ASD to those wishing to access support groups and social skills training, benefits advice and signposting.
  3. The key performance indicator for the service is that individuals feel less isolated and receive support to help them live independent lives. A number of case examples are outlined in Appendix A. Some clients have advised they find comfort in knowing that the service is there should a need arise. Some have used the service to ascertain future steps and to work through problems they are experiencing, and enquiries can typically result in effective signposting to existing services in the community.
  4. The service is effective in preventing or delaying the need for more extensive care and support. The service acts to try to "minimise the effect on disabled people of their disability", one of the key requirements of the Social Services and Well Being Act, Section 6.2. For example, a client on the path to homelessness was supported by the service and directed to advocacy services which resulted in a positive outcome for the client and served to enable them to avoid reaching crisis point. As a consequence, we circumvented any urgent need for council services (i.e. housing services, mental health services, etc.).
  5. For this particular client group, the Service also meets fully the Local Authority legal obligation under the new Act to "provide people with information and advice relating to care and support and assistance in accessing care and support". Each and every request to the service results in the provision of information and/or advice. In addition, many enquiries are also followed up, with some continued support in accessing services that already exist in the community. For example, the staff may accompany individuals to initial meetings with support groups, volunteer agencies or job centre meetings.
  6. In addition, the Service works continually to enable clients to live their lives as independently as possible, which is another key aspect of the Act. Rather than creating a dependence on support staff, the AAA service works where possible with the individual to encourage their independence and autonomy. Case work is based on short-term intervention. The service has been successful in reaching out to clients through new media. It updates information on a Facebook page where over 800 people have expressed an interest in the page and consult the updates that are posted, (total "likes" currently at 815). This is an increase of over 500 in the past year. The service also has a presence on the Council's website. The Vale of Glamorgan Adult Autism Advice Website received 416 hits between April 2013-March 2014 and 2,874 page views between October 2014-October 2015.
  7. The service has created innovative opportunities for social contact. On a monthly basis, it runs daytime forums in both Cardiff and Barry. These provide a medium for adults to influence the development of the project and act as a conduit for information to and from the local ASD steering group. A Couple Support Group has been established, where one or both partners are on the spectrum, to provide an opportunity for them to share difficulties and experiences and to allow for some group therapy. This group was established as a result of research carried out by and in collaboration with Cardiff University.  In addition, our service delivers social skills training to adults on the spectrum through the Socialeyes Programme.
  8. In addition to creating and signposting to social opportunities, the team frequently work with individuals seeking employment. Having highlighted a gap in provision for employment support, the project was able to access Welsh Government funding to run a specialist employment project from 2013-2014. We have been able to produce specialist materials and deliver job skills workshops. As a result, excellent links have been forged with local Job Centre Plus staff and we have been able to deliver workshops jointly. In the past year, a course for 8 people was run in Barry Job Centre. Of the 8 people who attended, 3 are now in employment, 2 have progressed to achieving interviews and are volunteering, 1 is a volunteer supporting older persons access IT and 2 have disengaged.
  9. The team have also delivered basic autism awareness to Job Centre staff and establishing more collaborative working practices so that we are better able to support adults with issues peripheral to the job search process. The materials have been developed further into an online resource of support materials to be accessed nationally at This includes awareness-raising materials for those supporting adults, principally aimed at Careers Wales and Job Centre Plus staff. 100% of Careers Wales staff have already passed the courses and over 200 Job Centre Plus staff. There is a section of materials for individuals to access which details the job search process and provides an online workbook to match skills and create a CV. There is a mobile App which links to this and provides support in job skills matching. Finally, a section for employers contains information on reasonable adjustment and an opportunity to become positive about autism. The Welsh Government has appointed Keith Ingram as Autism Employment Ambassador for Wales, to champion the cause of this group with employers, and it reimburses the Vale for time spent. The materials have also been presented and explained to the Deputy Director of the DWP in charge of Employment Support Allowance policy.
  10. A number of areas of good practice developed by the scheme locally have been adopted by other areas of Wales. For example, the Orange Wallet scheme is now providing improved access to public transport across Wales. An information film featuring the Orange Wallet has been created by Arriva Train and it is seeking to attain national recognition of the scheme via ATOC.
  11. In addition, an expression of interest has been submitted to Welsh Government to be considered for running an Integrated Autism Service pilot project. This would be in addition to the current service. The proposed service would utilise a coaching / mentoring approach to up-skill individuals with ASD, parents and professionals in order to facilitate access to existing statutory and community provision - thereby decreasing the likelihood of social isolation and subsequent emotional/mental health issues. All interventions would be time-limited and aimed at integrating people into wider community services. It is anticipated that each Health Board area would receive indicative funding of £200k for 3 years, to cover 2 health staff and 3 support workers.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Three part-time ASD Community Support Project Workers currently deliver the service across the four local authority areas. The posts are for 22.5 hours, 20 hours and 13.5 hours a week respectively. From January, the person occupying the 22.5 hour post is retiring.
  2. The grant allocation for this project for 2015-16 is £20,000 up to the end of September subject to:
  • compliance with the terms and conditions of the grant offer; and
  • satisfactory performance in the current financial year.

For the second half of the year and subsequent years, sufficient funding has been identified within the ring-fenced RSG funding across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Costs per annum will be approximately £24,000.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no sustainability or climate change implications as a direct result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no legal implications as a direct result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. As individuals with high functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome may have social communication difficulties, sometimes those who come into contact with the police can be at risk of being misunderstood. To help overcome these barriers, the service helps to raise public awareness about how individuals are best supported and also to signpost people to existing means of support such as the Emergency Services Card or Autism Alert Card.
  2. For the same reason, individuals with high functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome can sometimes be at an increased risk of falling victim to deception or manipulation. By establishing a local source of advice and information, this risk can be reduced.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The service has been established in order to ensure that adults with High Functioning Autism or Asperger's syndrome are afforded the same opportunities in carrying out their daily life as adults who do not have such disorders. Marketing materials for the service are available in Welsh.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. To make the Vale a safe, healthy and enjoyable place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The report is in accordance with the Council's policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. No local ward member consultation has been undertaken as this is a Vale-wide initiative.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

MINUTE 561 Update report on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder Community Monitoring and Support Project - Social Care and Health Scrutiny 3rd November 2014

Learning Disability Commissioning Strategy - Cabinet 30th June 2014

Contact Officer

Keith Ingram, Autism Project Lead Officer

Officers Consulted

Lance Carver, Head of Adult Services

Linda Woodley, Operational Manager for Learning Disability Services

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services