FAMILIES in Bradford face a wait of over two years to have their children assessed for Autism.

The "unacceptable" waiting time was revealed to members of Bradford Council's Children's Services Scrutiny at a meeting last week.

Members were so shocked at the current situation they suggested writing to the Government to take urgent action to tackle the situation.

The recommended maximum wait time for Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessments, which are provided by the NHS, is 12 weeks.

The committee raised the issue after a report on Special Educational Needs support in Bradford revealed the district was not reaching its targets in ASD wait times.

Marium Haque Deputy Director of Children's Services at the Council said: "The target wait time is 12 weeks, and Bradford is far off from that target. The current wait times for families is in excess of two years. That is a cause for concern and something the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) has recognised. We are working with providers to bring about improvements so waiting times can begin to come down."

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Councillor David Ward (Lib Dem, Bolton and Undercliffe) said: "I you had said six months I would have said that is shocking. There must be a way to deal with this, for those families caught up in this it must be absolute hell."

Mrs Haque said: "We've been clear with the CCG they need to tell us what their plans are and that they need to give us time scales of when waiting times are likely to fall."

She said "robust conversations" were being had with the CCGs.

Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) said: "Presumably the Secretary of State for health is ultimately responsible?"

He was told he would be, and Cllr Pollard replied: "Perhaps we should be contacting him about this."

Mrs Haque said she was meeting with NHS England this week to discuss the issue, and would let the committee know what the result was.

A spokesperson from the three NHS Bradford district and Craven clinical commissioning groups, on behalf of local NHS partners said: “We agree that these waiting times are unacceptable and we are sorry for the distress caused to the young people and their families who are waiting.

“We have been working with family representatives, our local providers (Bradford District Care Trust, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Airedale NHS Foundation Trust) and the voluntary sector to streamline and significantly improve the diagnostic and assessment process.

“The situation we are experiencing in Bradford district and Craven also reflects the national picture. The autism assessment process is highly specialised and complex, involving many different healthcare and education specialists and we have an increasing need locally. The changes we are making do take some time to implement and embed and in the meantime the CCGs have invested additional funding to clear some of the backlog of young people waiting starting with those who have waited longest.”