The future of Southwark’s support service for young autistic children appears to be shrouded in uncertainty, after the council seemed to propose getting rid of it.
The council’s Early Years Autism Service works with children up to the age of five on the autism spectrum. Services include helping children develop communication and social skills, as well as self-help and independence. Parents and nurseries where autistic children go can also get support from the service.
A line in the council’s proposed budget document for the 2022/2023 financial year suggests that the Early Years Autism Service is to be cut, to provide a saving of £200,000.
The News understands that the council may be proposing to end the service because officers believe there is already enough provision for young autistic children in Southwark.
But the council has not provided any further details on what this provision is or how it would support Southwark’s young autistic children if the cut were to be confirmed.
As well as the autism support service, the budget proposals also appear to suggest reducing the special educational needs inclusion service and various other early years support offerings. It is unclear if these are actually cuts, as the council did not provide more details in time for publication.
Southwark’s publicly available autism strategy says that the borough has one of the highest rates of autism among young people in the country, and the number going to local schools is increasing every year.
There is no clear figure for how many children could be affected by the end of the Early Years Autism Support Service. In the strategy, the borough says that there are 1,100 children and young people with autism who are known to local services in Southwark, so a rough estimate for the number under the age of five might be in the low hundreds.