Social Care Services and Autism


Two women talkingSocial care services are based in the community and are designed for assessing the needs of, and providing support to, people with any social needs due to mental or physical disabilities.

Residential care, supported living schemes, social groups, and respite care are among the many different kinds of social care service for autistic people

Social care services are provided on the basis that some autistic people and their families are unable to obtain all of the support that they need by themselves.

In the UK, those services may be provided by the local social services/social work department, by a social enterprise or not-for-profit organisation, or by a parent or carer.


Research suggests that some autistic people need some support that their families may not be able to provide. Some families may also need some forms of support. Determining the benefits of most social care services for autistic people is not currently possible. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed.

Risks and safety

The majority of social care services are well-run and pose no risks for autistic people. However, a number of high-profile cases have shown that some social care services are not well run and may pose very significant risks. The Winterbourne View residential home (in which the residents were emotionally and physically abused by staff) is probably the most notorious and the Slade House assessment and treatment unit (where a young adult with learning disabilities and epilepsy drowned while unattended) was also widely publicised at the time.

Advocacy and Self Advocacy

Advocacy is taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need.

Self Advocacy when someone takes action on their own behalf, for example when an autistic person speaks up for themselves.

Advocates include autistic people, parents, carers, service providers or paid specialists.

An advocate may work on a short term or specific issue, such as an immediate crisis, or they may work with someone longer term on a range of issues.

More Information

Please see: 


Mentoring is process of supporting and encouraging someone else to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.

Mentoring is not the same as befriending which is when someone volunteers to become a friend for a while.

Mentoring programmes may be aimed at specific groups of people (such as adults or students) and may be delivered as stand-alone interventions or as part of combined, multi-component interventions.

More information

Please see Publications on Mentoring

Residential Care

Residential care is a service where an autistic person lives in a home and requires high levels of support.

The residential service may be specifically for autistic people or may be targeted for people with learning disabilities and autism or other groups.

Some residential care homes involve service users in decision making, support service users in doing things independently and accessing the community, provide a variety of leisure and social environments, and respect people’s privacy.

More information

Please see Publications on Residential Care

Short Breaks

Short breaks, also known as respite care, consist of regular, short breaks during which autistic individuals spend some time away from their immediate family.

Respite carers help autistic people to enjoy opportunities and take part in activities that they may not otherwise get, such as trips to the seaside.

During the break, parents and siblings are given a break from the demands of caring for the autistic person. They get time for themselves and the chance to enjoy their own company

More information

Please see Publications on Short Breaks

Social Groups

Social groups provide an opportunity for people to meet others with the same or a similar diagnosis and also provide an opportunity for autistic people to improve their social skills in a safe, supportive environment.

The groups are usually facilitated by professionals or volunteers but offer flexibility in the leisure activities they provide. For example, some may focus on one activity, such as drama, and others may offer a wider range of activities.

Social groups differ from social skills groups in that they are less focused on learning skills and more focused on providing opportunities for people to participate in mainstream leisure

Please see Publications on Social Groups

Support Groups

Support groups are groups of individuals who provide a variety of help and other forms of support to each other.

Some support groups are designed to help autistic individuals while others are designed to help parents and carers or professionals and paraprofessionals.

Some support groups are facilitated by professionals while others are run entirely by the group members. Some groups meet face to face while others meet online.

More information

Please see Publications on Support Group

Supported Living

Supported living is where the autistic person is supported to choose where they live, whether anyone lives with them, and who supports them.

The people in supported living are supported to manage their day-to-day lives including having a tenancy agreement, paying their bills and accessing the community.

Supported living can be adapted to the individual needs of the person being supported.

Some people will still have high levels of need (24-hour care) while others may need one or two hours a day or a few hours a week.

More information

Please see Publications on Supported Living

Related Pages

Related Glossaries

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16 Jun 2022