The challenge

South East London (SEL) identified a large variation in the Children and Young People (CYP) autism assessment pathway across their six boroughs, resulting in differing access to care and outcomes. Without a standardised pathway there was little clarity and visibility for CYP and their families around the expected process and timelines for receiving an autism assessment, and the support on offer both pre- or post-assessment. 

Our approach 

Our approach involved an initial desktop review collating data and innovative ideas across and beyond SEL before setting up a Task and Finish Group to progress the work at pace. Subsequently, we worked with this reference group to engage with clinicians, the voluntary and community sector, education colleagues, CYP and their families and carers to co-develop a needs-led and flexible pathway, that put CYP at their core. ​ 

We understood that to engage effectively with such a wide range of stakeholders, we needed to be creative. This included an online interactive whiteboard for clinical professionals to update weekly and an easy-read survey targeting service users and parents that was distributed online and in-person (e.g., in GP surgeries with QR​ codes) and adapted appropriately for CYP and their families. We also held semi-structured interviews with trusted VCSE leads.​ 

Throughout the project we took a holistic approach, challenging the Task and Finish Group to use an evidence-based approach and develop a truly end-to-end pathway that encompasses not just the assessment but the support CYP receive both pre- and post-assessment.

Our impact

We supported SEL to: 

  • Produce a standardised needs-led pathway that could be locally implemented to support equitable care outcomes;
  • Embed a flexible approach using existing workforce and resources;
  • Share best practice across SEL and build relationships across the system, moving towards a more integrated care approach;
  • Have clarity across SEL around age thresholds and what support is available in each borough both for pre- and post-assessment.