Expanding and developing the workforce to serve autistic people and people with intellectual disability

Janine Robinson, Ailsa Russell, Kate Johnston, Louise Acker, Jason Crabtree, Ayla Humphrey, Emma Crouch, Will Mandy

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This paper considers current workforce issues facing psychological professionals working in NHS services, examining the challenges, and identifying opportunities to better meet the needs of autistic people and people with an intellectual disability (PwID) across the lifespan. The aim of this paper is to identify and publicly articulate the need for a coherent approach to guide the practice of psychological professionals when helping autistic people and/or PwID. It should be noted that the scope of the paper is limited to autism and intellectual disability. In addressing these broad groups and their co-occurring conditions and needs, we anticipate that many principles could be applied to other neurodevelopmental conditions. We also note the significant potential challenges in linking intellectual disability and autistic populations, hence have attempted – in drawing together a working group to write this paper – to ensure representation from a range of psychological professionals including those in policy, leadership, and training roles, those working in specialist or generic mental health services and undertaking clinical research across the lifespan. Objectives: ■ To help define and support clear action so that all sectors welcome and adequately support people with neurodevelopmental differences, including autistic people and/or PwID. ■ To play a role in the development, planning and evaluation of new psychological professions roles such as the Clinical Associates in Psychology (CAPS) and Education Mental Health Practitioners (EMHPs). ■ To reflect on the obstacles to recruiting to autism and learning disability services and to propose approaches to developing a sustainable psychological workforce in these areas. ■ To recognise where good examples of education and training programmes exist to address training, confidence and competence for all psychological professionals working with those who may be autistic and/or have an ID, and consider how to establish a more consistent approach to education, training and CPD across the workforce. ■ To engage in policy discussions around the current gaps, such as the demand for diagnostic assessments and support which significantly outstrips capacity, whilst highlighting unrealised opportunities, through for example, a systematic approach to training. ■ To advocate for the need for the voice of autistic people and PwID and their families/carers which is often absent from the design and offer of help.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-74
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Psychology Forum
Issue number375
Early online date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • Autism
  • Co-production
  • Competence
  • Expansion
  • Intellectual disability
  • Learning disability
  • Neurodevelopmental
  • Neurodivergence
  • Psychological
  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Staff
  • Training
  • Workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology

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