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Autism training for those working in CYP inpatient mental health

HEE and NHSE/I have joint-funded this programme to provide autism training for staff working in children and young people’s mental health inpatient services. As a result, clinicians and experts by experience will be equipped to train new and existing colleagues working in inpatient units. This will lead to a better understanding of autism and improved patient care within children and young people’s mental health inpatient services.  We will start rolling out training in March 2021.

What does the training involve?

The training will be co-produced and delivered with experts by experience. It will be delivered to the whole team and using a blend of education methods, such as group discussion and activities, case discussions, role play, reflective practice and a range of visual materials. 

Why is the training needed?

In 2019, several national reviews (1,2,3) highlighted significant challenges regarding the quality of care within units. The National Quality Improvement Taskforce for children and young people’s mental health inpatient services was established to make a rapid set of improvements. One of the taskforce actions was to require services to ensure their staff receive training in autism. This training is designed to give specialist service providers a sustainable means of training their current and future workforce.

What does the training look like?

The curriculum is based on a specification developed with autistic people and an expert group and mapped against existing capability frameworks. It is designed to allow inpatient teams to function at the highest capability level –Tier 3 – this describes the capabilities needed by health, social care staff and other professionals with a high degree of autonomy, able to provide care and support in complex situations and/or may also lead services for autistic people. Those delivering the training will adapt the programme to meet the needs of each patient group.  

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and SIGNAL Family Support Group, a parent support group for autistic children and their families, is co-producing the training materials and train the trainers.

The CYP specialist autism train the trainer course is a five-day training course designed to equip senior members of staff working in inpatient mental health settings to deliver training to their colleagues to improve staff members’ understanding and skills to work with young people with autism. Staff who complete the course will be able to deliver three tiers of training tailored to their colleagues’ requirements. The training will be delivered to six cohorts between April 2021 and February 2022. Each provider will nominate approximately 3 members of experienced clinical staff to undertake the train the trainer training. Approximately 200 clinical educators will be nominated from service providers across the UK to attend the training and will disseminate learning back to the teams working in their inpatient units. They will be supported by resources and a community of practice meaning that during the training and indefinitely thereafter, learners will have access to an online community of trainers who will support them as they take their training back to their inpatient facility. They will have access to resources, course manuals, reflective practice groups and refresher training sessions.  

What will happen next?

A bespoke, co-produced training programme is currently being designed to train Experts by Experience. This training will commence in November 2021 and is intended to prepare people with lived experience to co-deliver the autism training programme to staff working within mental health inpatient units.   

Evaluation of the training   

We have appointed an independent evaluator to undertake the evaluation of the Train the Trainer programme.    

They will be working with experts by experience and people with lived experience on the design of the research tools for the evaluation (in particular the research tools that will be used with young people and parents/carers).      

How does this relate to The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training?

This work and The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training both include training about autism and how to work with autistic people. However, there are several differences in the content and aims of the training:



Autism CYP Inpatient Training 


The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training 

Designed for and delivered to specialist mental health inpatient services  


Designed to be delivered within all health and care settings 


Focuses on the training needed for a team to work together in inpatient children and young people’s mental health units, with significant numbers of autistic children and young people

Focuses on understanding and making reasonable adjustments in a wide range of settings 


Designed to enable teams to deliver care to Tier 3 of the core capabilities framework.

Will cover Tier 1 capabilities and core tier 2 capabilities.

Will include material on a range of interventions and treatments

Will not include training on interventions and treatments 


Roll out will commence from March 2021.


This is in the development and trial phase. Plans for roll out will be informed by the outcome of the evaluation.


Find out more about The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training  


1) Are we listening? A review of children and young people’s mental health services

2) Far less than they deserve Children with learning disabilities or autism

living in mental health hospitals

3) House of Commons House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights The detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism