Boy with fidget spinner

Cheshire East autism service for 0 to 19 year olds

17th July 2019

We know that last year’ SEND inspection by Ofsted and Care Quality Commission revealed areas that caused great concern for children and young people and their families.

Inspectors found that waiting times for autism diagnosis were far too long in some parts of Cheshire East and that there were gaps in the service which meant that children and young people were not always getting timely access to the services they needed.

We want to tell you a little about the many changes we have made by listening to parents, carers, children and young people, along with health, social care and education experts. The result is a collaborative child and young person-centred approach to the assessment and diagnosis of autism.

So here is a summary of the changes we have made.

  • We’ve invested heavily in the  assessment service to try to bring waiting times in line with the three-month guideline recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. As a result, average waiting time for diagnosis has fallen by 44 weeks since last November, despite a large rise in referrals. The number of assessments to be made fell from 612 last October to 587 in June and is on track to have reduced to 240 by October. Over the same period, the number of children and young people waiting for longer than 12 weeks fell from 410 to 326 and is expected to have dropped to 180 by October.  
  • A multi-disciplinary team of healthcare and education experts has been set up to assess the needs of 0 to 4 year olds in the Eastern Cheshire part of Cheshire East, where there was previously a gap in service. Extra speech and language therapists and occupational therapists specialising in autism have been recruited.
  • More money has been found to employ clinical care co-ordinators who ensure that children and young people get all the help they need during the assessment process.
  • We are working with local charities and voluntary organisations to bring in more pre and post-diagnostic training and support for children and young people, and their parents and carers. The programmes of support will offer practical help and training on issues such as sleep management, sensory advice, anxiety management and positive behavioural support. The programme has already started in Eastern Cheshire and will soon be extended to South Cheshire. We will make sure that the new pre and post-diagnostic services link in with existing  NHS and local authority services such as Cheshire East Autism Team as well as with the valuable support provided by schools and other education settings in Cheshire East.
  • Joining up services in this way will mean that children, young people and their families will be able to access appropriate help and support according to their level of need:
    • Getting advice – first concerns/early identification
    • Getting help – local offer/specialist autism assessment
    • Getting more help – post-diagnostic support
    • Getting risk support – prevention of crisis/specialist risk support.

We hope this summary has shown you that the  SEND partnership has made great progress since last year’s inspection. We know there is still more to do and we’ll provide regular updates as the service moves forward. In the meantime visit our Local Offer to view all the autism support services available across Cheshire East.