Skills for Care

The standards, values and principles of a human rights-based approach to care and support for people at risk of distressed or challenging behaviour are already being applied in some settings and through some approaches.

There are four overriding principles which emerge from these approaches:

  • Develop and support autonomy - this includes supporting and developing decision making skills and providing opportunities to make decisions, including making mistakes and learning from them.
  • Develop and support functional communication - supporting and developing functional communication is essential for effective expression of autonomy in any but the most basic aspects of life. Not being able to communicate your will, preferences, wants, needs or views is very frustrating.

    EXAMPLE approach SCERTS (Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Supports) (Prizant et al, 2007) is a communication approach written entirely for use with autistic people.

    The Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) approach (Mesibov et al., 2004) is another educational approach developed for autistic children, but which is just as applicable to adults in social care contexts. TEACCH recommends using visual structures to organise the environment and tasks when supporting autistic people and this approach is likely to help many autistic people to communicate and to increase their functional vocabulary.
  • Reduce causes of stress and distress - unmanaged stress leads to distress. Reducing and managing stress in the physical and social environment, and by minimising uncertainty will help everyone feel calmer.
  • Support a meaningful life - for most people, a good life requires more than just being calm and happy. A life should include activities and relationships that are meaningful to the individual. Trusting relationships are part of a meaningful life, and the development of trusting relationships also supports autonomy, stress reduction, meaningful activities, and all aspects of good care.

Discussion paper

PDF - 1.19 Mb
With the National Autistic Taskforce, we have developed a discussion paper that examines these approaches in much more detail as they apply to autistic people (who may also have a learning disability).


Skills for Care is delighted that this paper is written from an autistic perspective and, while fully supported by Skills for Care as a discussion paper, it does not necessarily represent Skills for Care’s position and should not be considered guidance or advice from Skills for Care. The purpose of the document is to offer points for employers, individuals, workers and families to consider, and we would like to hear how we can take the discussion further. 

If you'd like to share your feedback on the discussion paper, please email us on



Eligible adult social care employers in England will soon be able to claim reimbursement for training costs for qualifying staff through the new Adult Social Care Training and Development Fund.