Acknowledging intimate lives
in national health and social care policy
National health and social care policies and publications should recognise the inequalities and social exclusion autistic people face and help service systems to reduce them. However, key policies like The National Strategy for Autistic Children, Young People and Adults: 2021 to 2026, make no mention of autistic adults' intimate lives. Prompted by these silences in the Autism Strategy, we systematically analysed a cross-section of English national health and social care publications to investigate how they represent and prioritise autistic adults’ intimate lives. Based on this analysis, we present some key policy recommendations.
Read more: Policy makers must recognise autistic adults’ intimate lives, urge researchers
National Policy Brief
Summary Autistic people face more social barriers to, and experience greater anxiety around, intimate relationships than the general population in our majority neurotypical society. This leads to increased loneliness and social isolation. National health and social care policies and publications should recognise these inequalities and help service systems to reduce them. We systematically analysed a cross-section of English national health and social care publications to investigate how they represent and prioritise autistic adults’ intimate lives. Our key findings are that most publications do not adequately and proportionally recognise or prioritise autistic people’s intimate lives compared to other aspects of social life and participation. Rather, they focus on the risks associated with sex and relationships and overlook autism-specific intimacy needs. Our key recommendations for policy-makers are: recognise that autistic people with and without learning disabilities may have autism-specific intimacy needs; recognise the need for sex and relationship education and support across the whole lifespan; and make changes to policy-making processes so that autistic people’s expressed concerns surrounding their intimate lives are not written out of health and social care policy.
We recommend that the Core Capabilities Framework for Supporting Autistic People (2019) is read by anyone involved in producing or reviewing autism-specific national health and social care guidance and policy. This document satisfies all the recommendations set out in our brief. The principles, values, and processes underpinning the framework offer a set of good practice principles upon which future national health and social care publications can build.
Local Autism Strategy Database for England: Each Local Autism Strategy by Local Authority
Our database is an excel spreadsheet that allows you to search for any local autism strategy or local autism partnership board in England. It was created using publicly available information sourced online and was last updated in August 2023.
As far as we are aware, there are currently no publicly accessible databases that include a list of all autism partnership boards and every available local autism strategy, by every local authority. Therefore, we have produced this much-needed database.
What is a Local Autism Strategy?
A total of 153 local authorities are responsible for providing social care to children and adults in England. Local autism strategies are policy documents produced by local authorities to ensure that all autistic adults, their partners, carers, family members and friends are supported to live a fulfilling life in their local area.
In England, local authorities are advised to produce local autism strategies under the Autism Act 2009. ‘The national strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026’ also sets out England’s priorities in supporting autistic people, recommending local authorities to action these priorities in their local strategies.
Local authorities are also advised to set up ‘Autism Partnership Boards’ under the Autism Act 2009. Members of autism partnership boards are usually representatives from local authorities, and from the health, education, social care, voluntary and community sectors, who sit alongside autistic people and their representatives. They ensure that local services are provided to autistic people and play a key role in the development and publication of local autism strategies.
What is this Database?
This database is an excel spreadsheet that contains links to download publicly accessible local autism strategies, and information on each local autism partnership board, searchable by local authority in England.
Of the 153 local authorities responsible for providing social care to children and adults in England, we identified 106 local authorities with publicly available autism strategies, while the remaining 47 did not have a publicly available autism strategy at the time of data collection. Most local authorities produced their own local autism strategy (74 documents) but in some cases, multiple local authorities have developed an autism strategy collaboratively and therefore share the same document (15 documents). Consequently, the database contains 89 autism strategy documents. Within these 89 autism strategy documents, 5 were joint learning disability and autism strategies. These strategies were all published between 2010 and 2023.
The database was produced as part of the SAAIL research project that investigated how support for intimate lives is represented, and prioritised, within local autism strategies in England. Within the database, we have put an Asterix (*) next to local autism strategies that showed some good practice in terms of representing or recognising the importance of supporting sex and relationships. Please use the database however you wish.
You can preview the content in the database below, but to access the documents stored on the database please click to download the free database spreadsheet.
How you could use this Database: A Guide
Each local autism strategy is listed alongside each corresponding local authority.
What to do:
1. Use your local authority to find your local autism strategy on the database. You can do this by clicking the down arrow on the first column (next to the title ‘Local Authority in England’).
2. A drop-down list of all Local Authorities will appear. You can select your Local Authority by typing it in the search bar below and clicking ok. This will show you your local authority, your latest local autism strategy, a link to view or download the latest strategy, and your local autism partnership board (if available, as of August 2023).
What if I do not know my local authority?
If you do not know your local authority, you can use the UK Government Local Council Finder. Put your postcode in the white box provided on the webpage and click the find button. This will tell you what local authority you reside in.
If you do not know your postcode you can try and find it with Royal Mail Group Ltd. Postcode Finder, by typing in the first line of your address.
This database is a static data source produced in August 2023 that will not be regularly updated. However, if you are aware of any errors or more current information on any local autism strategies or autism partnership boards, please email email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add it to the database.
Have you found our database useful?
Please let us know by emailing us or leaving feedback.