A recent independent review of the Scottish Government and COSLA's 10-year Autism Strategy has been published.
The strategy, which comes to an end this year, set out with the vision that by 2021 autistic people would be “respected, accepted and valued by their communities and have confidence in services to treat them fairly so that they are able to have meaningful and satisfying lives".
The review concludes: “After ten years, valuable resources have been created and new and additional services delivered. However, real change for many autistic people, both in how they engage with services and in how they are supported to live productive lives, is not as evident. To have a greater impact, the services and support need to have greater reach, become embedded and be sustained.”
This echoes the findings from the Cross-Party Group on Autism’s own 2020 review the ‘Accountability Gap’ which found (from a survey of 900) that 72% of autistic people and families did not have enough support to meet their needs across a number of areas including education, care and employment.
Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton has recently spoken up about this issue in the Scottish Parliament, questioning the government on its record in providing children with additional support needs (ASN) such as autism.
In the lead up to May's Holyrood Election, the National Autistic Society Scotland, together with partners Scottish Autism and ENABLE Scotland, campaigned under the banner of ‘Our Voice Our Rights’ for a Commissioner to promote and protect the rights of individuals and their families.
This resulted in a commitment in the SNP Manifesto to introduce a Commissioner as part of a Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill. Work on this is yet to begin.
Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire, said:
“This has been an area of concern for me since my election. Support for people in the Borders and across Scotland who live with autism must be prioritised as we emerge from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“In particular, I would like to see the Scottish Government make the necessary resources available to enable people with autism to live happier, more fulfilling lives. This is especially important for young people in an educational setting, where the opportunities to provide support and equip them with the skills they need for life are much greater.
“I have been vocal in calling for the delivery of high-quality education for children with ASN, asking the Education Secretary what more can be done to ensure that children with ASN receive the educational arrangements to which they are entitled”
Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland, said:
“What is clear from today’s review of the Scottish Strategy for Autism is that autistic people and their families are still, after ten years, not getting the vital support that they need to live meaningful and fulfilled lives. The review echoes findings from last year’s ‘Accountability Gap’ report produced by the Cross-Party Group on Autism which found that while progress had been made, 72% of individuals and their families did not get enough support to meet their needs.
“Today’s review sets out some positive ways forward and we are delighted that Scottish Government has committed to establishing a Commissioner.
“We believe a Commissioner with robust powers to uphold rights, challenge bad practice and promote good will lever real change.”