Child of the North 2024 Campaign – Report 1

A country that works for all children and young people

An evidence-based plan for addressing the autism assessment and support crisis


The first report in a year-long series – produced jointly by Child of the North and the Centre for Young Lives – that seeks to deliver a country that works for all children and young people, sets out a new plan to support autistic children.

An evidence-based plan for addressing the autism assessment and support crisis reveals a crisis in children’s autism assessment, warning that thousands of autistic children and young people are waiting months – or even years – for health and education support.

The report sets out a number of key recommendations for tackling the autism assessment crisis, calling for a ‘needs-led’ approach instead of relying on a ‘diagnosis-led’ system, where early identification becomes the norm and faster effective support is offered without relying on a diagnosis.

The report warns that the failure to provide the right autism support can lead to poor long-term outcomes for autistic children, including an increased prevalence of connected conditions such as mental ill health and a greater risk of school exclusion or not attending school.


An evidence-based plan for addressing the autism assessment and support crisis

Our analysis reveals an autism assessment and support crisis, with tens of thousands of children waiting months and years for help after demand rockets by over 300% since Covid.

  • The report reveals more than one in four parents have waited over three years to receive support for their autistic child
  • Just one in ten children receive an appointment within the recommended 13 week waiting period
  • The report calls for more assessments to take place in nurseries and schools and more support for autistic children before diagnosis, and for new formal local partnerships between schools, health, voluntary services, and universities

Click here to download the report


Report webinar

In February a number of the report’s authors cae together to discuss their findings and to answer questions from the online audience.

Watch a recording of the webinar here


Professor Mark Mon-Williams, Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Leeds, said:

“Autistic children and their families are being failed by systems that are not fit for purpose. This report provides hope with its evidence-based recommendations for how the system can be changed to build a better UK for children and young people. We now have a roadmap and we need to act at pace to ensure these recommendations are implemented.”

Anne Longfield, Executive Chair of the Centre for Young Lives, said:

“The number of autistic children seeking support is at a record high and the number waiting for an assessment has rocketed since Covid. The autism assessment crisis is leaving thousands of children without the support they need and parents having to battle their way through a nightmare process that can take years to resolve.

“The evidence shows the need to move to a system of support that responds to the needs of autistic children, rather than waiting for diagnosis before any help appears. The education sector and health services should be working together, sharing data and information, and building local partnerships that can transform the support autistic children receive.”


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Previous Reports

Previous reports can be found archived on our Child of the North Reports page.

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Stephen Parkinson, Research Partnership Manager

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