A MOTHER claims schools are being deterred from paying for autism assessments for their pupils, due to the cost of the checks.

Some Worcestershire schools pay Babcock Prime, a private company, to assess their students for the condition.

The company’s specialised teachers can recommend that pupils be referred to the NHS’s autism diagnosis programme.

Tracy Winchester, whose two children, Maize and Rowan, are autistic, said: “Schools are expected to pay for screening or assessment of a child in school to get evidence and then refer the child [to the pathway].

“However, many schools are reluctant to do this due to cost or because they dismiss parents. This is particularly a problem when children ‘mask’ their difficulties.

“This is seriously restricting people gaining access to the pathway in the first place and then not being able to access other help in school, social care etc. Some people are in absolute crisis and can’t get the help as they can’t access the pathway.”

Ms Winchester said the other way to get referred to the NHS’s diagnosis programme, called the Umbrella Pathway, is through a community paediatrician.

The Worcestershire mum added that Babcock Prime’s autism assessments are carried out by specialist teachers who work for the company’s complex communication needs team.

The team charges £237 for three hours of work, according to the Babcock Prime website.

It offers a six-hour ‘referral to the Umbrella Diagnostic Pathway’ service to schools.

The Babcock Prime website states: “Schools and settings can purchase additional support where the needs of the child or young person do not meet the threshold for support commissioned by the local authority for Worcestershire.”

It is understood that, once diagnosed, children can access support from Babcock without charge. The county council’s contract with the company was signed in 2015 and is due to run out in 2020. The council will let the contract run its course.

A Worcestershire County Council spokesman said: “The local area has a comprehensive improvement plan for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) overseen by the Department for Education and NHS England.

“Recent improvements have seen the development of a graduated response which sets out the provision schools should be making for children with SEND on their roll.

“If a specific school has difficulties affording the type of intervention it sees as suitable for a child or young person they can contact Worcestershire County Council for a discussion around further support.”

Babcock Prime declined to comment.