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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published a report that acknowledges gaps in the availability of information about the needs of autistic children and young people in many local areas, resulting in a failure to provide needed mental health support.

The report is the CQC’s second report of its review of children and young people’s mental health provision in England. The review is looking at how easily children and young people can access the mental health services they need, and at the quality of services that are available to them.

Called ‘Are we listening?’, today’s report says that too many children and young people reach crisis point before they are able to get the services they need, because health care, schools and other public services are not working together as well as they should.

The CQC recommends that children and young people’s mental health should be a bigger priority for the Government, and that government departments and local organisations should work together more effectively to make sure that young people receive the mental health support they need at the time they need it.

We have contributed to the review and have emphasised the particular mental health issues that autistic children and young people experience, and the barriers they face in accessing services. We have also made the same points in our response to the Government’s recent consultation paper, ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’. We will continue to campaign to make sure that autism is a priority in reforms of mental health for children and young people on the spectrum.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at The National Autistic Society, said:

“Any discussion about mental health provision for children and young people should include the particular needs of children on the autism spectrum, because more than seven in ten autistic children also experience mental health problems. These needs are often overlooked, with the result that children don’t get the support they need and their problems worsen.

“Schools and colleges should become more welcoming, inclusive, supportive environments for children on the autism spectrum, to reduce the chances of mental health problems developing and escalating. At the same time, access to specialist mental health services should be available to every child who needs this level of support.

“We welcome the recognition in the report that autistic children and young people don’t get the help they need from mental health services. However, we are disappointed that there isn’t a greater focus on autism in the report, given the high levels of mental health problems among children and young people on the spectrum.”