Autism services in Wandsworth currently risk children being “lost in the system” once they turn five years old.

Councillors approved a package of proposals to draw the two components of the service – for under-fives and older children respectively – together at a February 7 meeting of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The plans have been drawn up after conversations with families and professionals to try to create a clear “pathway” for children that is hoped will lead to better support.

Children’s services spokesman, Cllr Sarah McDermott, said: “We think it makes sense to combine the two [components] so that it offers a more seamless and unified service with better communication between teams, better availability all year round – especially during school holidays – and better longer term planning which also reduces the chances of children getting lost in gaps between the two services.”

The proposals are designed to:

Give a single point of contact for each family, particularly in times of crisis

Keep a better overview of children with autism and track their progress

Create a larger, unified team with a better range of specialist support

But parents of children with special educational needs, including autism, voiced concerns at the meeting.

One of them, Annalise Boucher, said she had concerns that the new pathway would lead to an increase in the already long waiting times for a child to be diagnosed.

And she said she was worried that not enough parents had been involved in the conversations so far – less than 10% of families of children with SEND in the borough.

Council officials assured them that the proposals as set out are not final, and will change significantly following a wide consultation set to begin soon.

They also stressed that this was not a cost-saving exercise, and all money currently in the service will remain – but will simply be used differently.