Adults with autism who wish to live independently are set to benefit from the launch of the first national strategy to help them live fulfilling and rewarding lives.

Backed up by the Autism Act 2009, the autism strategy, launched on Wednesday by care services minister Phil Hope, aims change public services and help more autistic adults into work. Just 15 per cent of people with autism are currently in paid employment, and 49 per cent live with their parents.

It is unacceptable that adults with autism are not getting the support they need to live independently and find work

The scheme is backed by a range of initiatives, including training sessions for all Jobcentre Plus disability employment advisers, clearer guidance on making public services accessible to adults with autism and a £500,000 investment in awareness-raising programmes.

Mr Hope said: “I want the autism strategy to be the foundation for change in the way our whole society treats adults with autism. They have a huge contribution to make - shutting them out deprives everyone.

“It is unacceptable that adults with autism are not getting the support they need to live independently and find work. This strategy will start a fundamental change in public services with better awareness and understanding.”

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, praised the scheme, saying: “Encouragingly, the strategy pinpoints achievable solutions that could radically improve the lives of people with autism.”

The government will publish a first year delivery plan in March 2010, followed by statutory guidance for health and social care by December 2010. The strategy will be reviewed in 2013.