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A manual for good social work practice: Supporting adults who have autism

The Department of Health commissioned The College of Social Work to produce this learning resource for social workers who work with adults who have autism, their carers and families. It can be used in conjunction with the curriculum guide for social workers who work with adults who have autism.

This manual is designed to assist with the very practical and sometimes complex issues that social workers need to know about for practice with adults who have autism. While the manual is targeted at social workers in their day-to-day practice, it will also be valuable for senior social workers, social work supervisors and managers who may not be directly involved in practice with adults who have autism but who will nevertheless, be supporting their social work teams to deliver the best outcomes for the people with whom they work.

Research indicates that just over 1% of the UK adult population, or about 700,000 people, are on the Autistic Spectrum. A greater level of awareness is beginning to unfold for adults with autism, so it is more vital than ever that social workers know how to engage with and assist people with autism to access different types of support and enable them to stay well in their communities. As a rise in awareness of issues experienced by adults with autism occurs, the number of adults with autism who may come into contact with a social worker will invariably increase. Therefore, guidance and practical advice on how to practice excellent social work with adults in this area, is a priority.

It is important for social workers to have a good understanding of autism, as indeed they should of other factors, both personal and situational, which impact on individuals having the lives they want for themselves. My Knowledge and Skills Statement (KSS) sought to equip social workers with the tools they need to best serve the interest of individuals and families, including those with autism. It is important that when a person is being assessed there is awareness of their autism and the impact it has on them, their family or carers. By engaging effectively – working alongside people to enable and empower them to have choice and control over their care and support – social workers can exert a positive impact in helping promote independence. The regulations and guidance supporting the Care Act include requirements for social workers to be skilled in this area and to provide advice and support – or seek more advice from trainers and assessors where their experience may be lacking.

I believe social workers are often best placed to understand and adapt their ways of working to accommodate the complexities and challenges that a life with autism presents. I hope you will find this guidance valuable in supporting and developing your professional practice in this important area.