Report highlights barriers to social care support for Autistic people

The front cover of a report with the title Autism and self directed support (SDS) on an orange background

A new report, published to coincide with Autism Acceptance Week, highlights the barriers autistic people face in accessing Self-Directed Support. 

Self-directed Support (SDS) is the way social care is meant to be delivered in Scotland, following the passing of the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. It is designed to give those who need social care support choice and control over how this support is delivered. 

However, the report highlights a number of barriers faced by autistic people in accessing social care support, and exercising their rights to that choice and control. 

The report authors spoke to autistic people, family members, third sector organisations and social work professionals, to find out what prevented people from accessing SDS. 

They found that: 

  • There was a lack of information aimed at autistic people to explain how to access SDS  
  • Autistic people and professionals reported a lack of good examples of where autistic people had used SDS successfully, that would help them understand its potential 
  • Eligibility criteria for accessing social care support were not responsive to the needs of autistic people, being focused on physical and learning disability 
  • Current assessment processes also proved a barrier to accessing support, with autistic people reporting they felt assessors did not understand their needs 
  • There is a lack of knowledge and understanding of autism within the social work profession 
  • There is a lack of suitable services for autistic people, limiting the choice available to enable autistic people to live full, independent lives. 

Self Directed Support Scotland (SDSS), who commissioned the report, say that of the thousands of enquiries they receive every year from people looking for advice and help with social care support, the majority come from autistic people and their carers. 

SDSS Chief Executive Donald Macleod said:

“It has been clear to us through these enquiries, and through feedback from our members, that autistic people are not benefitting from social care support as they could be.” 

He said he hopes the report will act as “an initial step in understanding access related issues, as well as barriers, lastly identifying some potential solutions through recommendations for improvement.” 

The report suggests several recommendations that will go some way toward overcoming the barriers. 

These include: 

  • Updating and creating new information aimed at autistic people to raise awareness of how to access Self Directed Support, with examples of where it has worked well 
  • Developing training with autistic people to help professionals involved in social care support understand the needs of autistic people and how they can use SDS to meet their outcomes 
  • Ensuring that autistic people’s views are included in ongoing work to develop and reform social care support. 

Self Directed Support Scotland are establishing a working group to take forward the report’s recommendations, with the ultimate aim that autistic people will have better access to, and be able to exercise greater choice and control over, social care support. 

Anyone who would like to express an interest in being part of this work can contact  

Download the report here: SDSS-SDS_and_autism_report 2023

Self Directed Support Scotland

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