Research Autism

Adolescence to Adulthood with Autism in the UK

Press Release   •   Oct 14, 2010 07:55 BST

A national conference is being held today to examine the transition of young people with autism into adulthood. This review comes one year after the publication of the NAO (National Audit Office) report*, which highlighted huge gaps in service provision for this vulnerable group. The landmark Autism Act 2009, and the publication of the first ever autism strategy ‘fulfilling and rewarding lives’ have been significant developments towards improving service provision in the UK. However, bridging the gap from children’s to adult services still remains an area in need of improvement. Managing transitions for young people with autism into adulthood requires effective planning and joint working between health, social care, education, housing and employment sectors.

The aim of today’s conference is to address some of these issues and share good practice models in delivering and commissioning services, to ensure successful transitions for adults with autism. The conference will be chaired by Research Autism’s Chairman, Geoffrey Maddrell, and will feature speakers from key sectors including: government, health, education and employment. They will share national and regional examples of good practice in ensuring successful and seamless transitions for young people into adulthood, further education, employment and independence. 

Richards Mills, Research Autism’s Research Director and one of the speakers said: “One year on from the NAO report and there is still no evidence that the level of expertise in local authorities has increased in line with the recommendations of the report. Consequently they are unable to provide an appropriate assessment of need, and they then struggle to provide suitable services.”

There are currently over half a million people with autism in the UK; the large majority being adults. The numbers of those diagnosed with autism is on the rise and the economic cost of support is just over £25 billion** each year, yet the provision of services for this group remains inconsistent.  The majority of local authorities and their NHS partners still do not have robust data on the actual number of adults with autism within their area, so they are unable to identify needs and plan accordingly. UK families still find it extremely complicated to get the correct assessment and subsequent diagnosis. It’s therefore not surprising that only 12% of adults with autism are in employment and 40% still live at home with their parents.

Geoffrey Maddrell, Chairman of Research Autism, and chair of the conference said:

Research Autism was not surprised by the NAO’s findings last year, which confirmed what people with autism, professionals and their families have long been saying; that there is an appalling lack of joined up and accessible provision for adults with autism. Today’s conference is therefore very timely, as each local authority sector must continue to work together and find out where improvements need to be made.

Support for children with autism has improved greatly in recent years; in theory this should mean that these children are known to government services and should benefit from a planned and tailored transition from education into adult life, but this sadly is still not the case. Local authority professionals must therefore receive adequate and tailored training in order to be aware of the wide ranging issues facing those with autism, to prevent misdiagnosis and to ensure the services address the real issues which reduce the level of contribution and fulfilment of those affected. This lack of appropriate help greatly compounds the level of difficulty faced by those affected, and increases the economic cost.

Research Autism strongly advocates the use of evidence based research, and our current research models show that with the correct employment support and mentoring, many adults with ASC can sustain long term education and career paths. We know that with correct and timely intervention the quality of life and outlook can be much improved and adults with autism can live fulfilling lives, whilst also making a valued contribution to the community.”


*The NAO Report 2009 was commissioned to explore the problems and challenges of supporting adults with autism. The aim of the report was to assess service provision in areas including: health, social care, education, benefits and employment support. It also identified how these areas could be made more effective, efficient and appropriate to the needs of adults with autism and their carers. The NAO surveyed 150 local authorities with social services responsibilities and their NHS partners between September 2008 and February 2009. The NAO also conducted in-house research and surveyed 1,000 GP’s via

** Knapp et al., The Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK.

The conference is being organised by Neil Stewart Associates and being held in London.

For further Research Autism media information please contact: Atia Islam Talukder on 07976 704025 or email

RESEARCH AUTISM - Research Autism’s sole focus is on interventions in autism. Established as an independent charity with the support of the National Autistic Society to address concerns of its members about the dearth of high quality scientific research in this area. Working with individuals with ASC and with Cambridge University as its research sponsor, they have the active support of the most eminent figures from the world of autism; they give their time for free. The web based information service through which they disseminate research findings, attracts over 25,000 visitors a month. Research Autism is committed to a programme of research that is important to the autism community that will improve quality of life and support social inclusion.