Maudsley Learning part of South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) worked with Health Education England, third sector organisations, subject matter experts and experts by experience on a 12-month national project to identify and share a range of approaches to support health, social care and public facing workforces across England to use the Core Capabilities Framework for Supporting Autistic People (2019).
The Core Capabilities Framework for Supporting Autistic People (CCF) (2019) details core capabilities that a workforce must meet when working with and for supporting autistic people. Within the framework, there are three tiers depending on the needs of the workforce: Tier 1 is for those who require a general understanding of autism, but may not regularly work for autistic people; Tier 2 is for those who provide care and support for autistic people but are not autism specialists; Tier 3 is for those who work intensively with autistic people.
This project aimed to investigate current autism training opportunities within England, and assess whether the core training content aligned with CCF recommendations. Further, the project aimed to identify any prominent gaps in workforce training, and gain an understanding of how to increase awareness and use of the CCF amongst training providers.
Co-production and Partnership
The project team aimed to keep co-production at the heart of the ACCEPT project in line with the strong history of co-production of the organisations involved. Autistic people have been involved in this project in numerous ways including:
- Part of the project team, document authors, and steering group
- Designing our data collection methods
- External feedback on data collection methods through Autistica’s Insight group
- Conducting data collection
- Reviewing our findings
- Drafting and commenting on final documents
This work was completed in collaboration with:
- Estia Centre
- National autistic society
- Health Education England
- South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
- King’s college London
Main project outputs
We conducted three phases of data collection using a range of methods cluding a national survey, focus groups and interviews. Autistic people, their family and carers, professionals in public facing positions, and trainers who provided autism training were involved in every phase of data collection. The data from this informed all of the following documents
This project had a number of key research outputs including:
- Full project report
- Executive summary and key highlights
- Gap analysis
- Training directory
- Delphi survey summary report
- Virtual conference- Launching the Autism Core Capabilities rEPosiTory: Our findings from the ACCEPT project
- Easy read version- Full report
- Easy read version – national survey
- Easy read version- training directory
- Easy read version – gap analysis
- A systematic review of autism training programmes for health and social care staff – In progress
- Current perspectives on autism training (research paper)- In progress
- Cognitive behaviour therapy for autistic individuals: A Delphi survey with practitioners- under review
- Overall, 200 autism training providers were contacted, and almost 400 participants took part.
- Almost half of all the participants that were involved in the project were autistic. Further, with co-production at the core of all aspects of our project, we involved autistic people throughout the design, analysis, and write-up stages.
- The main gaps within autism training that were highlighted in the project included: core training content, specialist training content, the involvement of autistic people in training, correct use of terminology (“autistic people” vs. “people with autism”), the methodology of the training, and training evaluation.
- Barriers were highlighted which prevent autistic people becoming more involved in training, including: lack of opportunities, lack of support and equal pay, the training itself not being autism friendly, and the stigma associated with autism.
- Barriers for professionals accessing autism training were also highlighted, and included: funding, time, resources, poor quality content, and a lack of awareness of available training courses.
- The CCF is intended to be used across all professions, aided by the flexibility of the tier system.
- Participants agreed that everyone in society should receive autism training.
- Sectors were highlighted as most in need of training included: healthcare and community healthcare, education, mental health, and emergency services.
- Our Training Directory highlights training courses that currently align with the CCF. This includes a mix of face-to-face and digital training, the latter rising in popularity due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- The systematic review highlighted that studies looking at the effectiveness of autism training is often of poor quality, with a lack of robust methods and evaluations.
- The review also highlighted the lack of co-production with autistic people reported in the studies. The findings of the review suggest that future studies should employ more scientifically-robust methods in order to assess autism training.
The ACCEPT Project has highlighted a number of barriers and issues in current autism training, but has also provided recommendations for future directions in order to enhance training and improve the lives of autistic people. Namely, we suggest that the CCF is recognised as the “gold-standard” template for autism training, in order for all workforce employees to meet the same, standardised requirements. In doing this, we suggest that the promotion of the CCF must become more prominent in the autistic community as well as within the workforce: social media platforms and liaison with autistic organisations can aid in this.
Of high importance is the need to provide opportunities for autistic people to become involved in training, from conception to delivery and beyond. Further, supporting autistic people to actively deliver training is also essential. To address this, courses could be developed to help equip autistic people with the skills and confidence needed to be able to deliver training.
It is encouraged that more robust research is conducted to evaluate autism training programmes, in order to gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Further research also needs to be conducted on the barriers of training accessibility and how to address these, so as to better upskill workforces.
This work was funded and supported by Health Education England Intellectual Disabilities programme. We would like to sincerely thank all participants for their contribution to this exciting project.