Autism Reports Released - New Focus For Services

  • Bill English

Health Minister Bill English today released two reports on services for people with autism and said that the Government acknowledged there was considerable potential to provide better services.

The first report, by Professor John Werry, was under s47 of the Health & Disability Services Act 1993 on Casey Albury. The second was carried out by an interdepartmental "Autism Services Project" team into autism services in New Zealand. Both reports were commissioned by the Director-General of Health following the death of Casey Albury.

"Both these reports make it clear that New Zealand does not have well developed services for the diagnosis and care of people with autistic disorders. There have been gaps in what services been available in the past and the reports recommend action to fill these gaps.

"The interdepartmental report, which has been extensively discussed with the Autistic Association, lays out a detailed timetable for action to improve services, which I have endorsed. I am making this public so parents can have confidence that we are dealing with the issues they are concerned about.

"These steps will see a significant amount of progress made by the middle of next year in improving services. Further recommendations, such as the need for better professional training, will be implemented by 30 June 2000. "Implementation of these recommendations will go along way to addressing the concerns identified by Professor Werry in his report. I will be discussing some of his further recommendations with Professor Werry.

"There is considerable potential to provide better services by building on and improving existing co-ordination arrangements and by raising skill and knowledge levels.

"The reports are largely consistent in their recommendations:

  • greater clarity about who was responsible for services through improved interagency co-ordination
  • improved early diagnosis and care services
  • high priority for emergency and respite care for families
  • better education to increase awareness about autism.

"As an initial step in developing guidelines for professionals and improving access to services, an additional $200,000 has been secured for autism services. This new money, which will go to the Health Funding Authority, is part of a bigger child health funding package that I will be announcing at the end of the month.

"The interdepartmental report makes it clear that there may be a need for further funding for services for people with autism, but we won't know the extent or nature of that until after the work outlined in the attached timetable is complete," said Mr English.

For further information contact:

Liz Rowe, Press Secretary, 04-471 9154 (wk) or 04-383 5491 (hm)

Summary of Implementation Timetable by 30 November 1998

  • paper for joint Ministers on terms of reference, resourcing and operational arrangements for the Ministry of Health as the lead agency for autism
  • inter-sectoral meeting and agreement on use of common definition for Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • by 31 January 1999
  • agencies and organisations agree to the clear identification of one appropriate 'case manager' responsible for each person with ASD
  • by 31 March 1999
  • meetings held with professional organisations and with tertiary education institutions about the means to achieve greater ASD knowledge by graduates
  • inter-sectoral meeting and agreement on administrative protocols and practices to ensure a seamless provision of services and 'safety net' and involvement of Pacific Island, Maori and Asian organisations
  • inter-sectoral review and report to lead agency on proposed plans for changes which can be made to services for people with autism and their families
  • by 30 June 1999
  • lead agency (consulting with Autistic Association and other relevant organisations) reports to joint Ministers on implementation plans for improvements in services (subject to funding)
  • lead agency co-ordinates any inter-sectoral consideration for additional funding to develop services for people with autism and their families
  • lead agency to ensure that plans are in place to ensure any agreed service changes are in place for people with high support and specialist care needs to get appropriate services on the basis of need
  • lead agency, Health Funding Authority (and other agencies as appropriate) explore options for overseas recruitment and visits by overseas experts
  • approach determined to identifying and funding selected professionals for specialised training and experience in ASD in recognised overseas centres during the 1999/2000 year
  • forum convened by lead agency to explore the options and arguments for the location, nature and leadership of centre(s) of excellence for ASD in New Zealand
  • lead agency establishes basis and mechanism for appropriate acquisition/purchase of knowledge and information on ASD
  • by 31 September 1999
  • coordinated provider awareness programme is run, funding by Health, Education and Welfare
  • by 30 October 1999
  • concerted, co-ordinated effort to identify people with ASD, in the interests of provision of adequate and appropriate services to them and to their families
  • by 31 December 1999
  • proposal submitted to joint Ministers for a co-ordinated public awareness programme on ASD
  • appropriate information sharing strategies for Maori, Pacific Island and Asian people with ASD and their families developed
  • lead agency co-ordinates collection of statistical data from the Health and Welfare sectors to clearly establish the nature, disposition, size and service coverage of all people with ASD
  • by 30 June 2000
  • all relevant professional and caregiver staff are appropriately trained and/or have ready access to information about ASD to enable informed case contribution and management.