Call for Moray Council to appoint an ‘Autism Champion’

Moray Council’s Chief Executive is being encouraged to assign an elected member or official to act as an ‘autism champion’ leading work on its local autism strategy.

The call, from Donside MSP Mark McDonald, comes a year after the Scottish Government launched a national strategy that saw £13.4million allocated to building improvements and enabling access to autism services.

Mr McDonald has written to all 32 Chief Executives suggesting that the role of an assigned autism advocate would help to focus the work of each local authority and so ensure that funding is being best placed for those individuals and their families.

His call has been backed by Robert MacBean, policy and campaign officer for the National Autistic Society.

Mr MacBean said: “The Government is right to recognise the challenges faced every day by people with autism and their families.

“The lack of a strategic ‘joined up’ approach between local authorities and other key agencies is the reason why many Scots with autism have been rendered ‘invisible’ by the present system, despite significant spending.

“Agencies expected to help often struggle to do so because they don’t recognise autism, or understand its impact. The Government, local authorities and a range of organisations must listen to people with autism and work with them to improve quality of life for people with autism and their families, as set out in the Autism Strategy for Scotland.”

Mr McDonald chaired a meeting at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday to learn about the experiences for older autistic people.

Following that meeting he said: “The funding which has been rolled out by the Scottish Government provides local authorities with a great opportunity to make improvements to the autism services currently available within their communities and to also develop new facilities if required.

“Each local authority has received £35,000 towards developing their own local autism strategy and it is vitally important that this money is put to the best use possible for those with autism and their families and carers.

“I believe that through assigning a devoted official or elected member to take on the role of an autism champion, it would afford the local authority the opportunity to really focus on developing the services available to the community.

“An autism champion would also be able to ensure that existing council services were configured in a way that was autism-friendly and that took account of the needs of people with autism who access local services.

“The meeting I chaired also highlights the need for an autism champion. Too often autism is incorrectly viewed as relating to children and young people only, and this can often lead autistic adults feeling that services are not directed to their needs.

“I feel very strongly that some people with autism are falling between gaps in services and work must be done within local communities to ensure that people are being reached out to and supported as much as they possibly can be.”

Moray Council has conducted initial consultations with adults with autism and their parents and carers, with a number of focus groups set up to identify where improvements can be made.

The ‘shared vision’ of the local authority is “To build on a supportive partnership with adults who have autism and their family or carer which will empower them to have better choice and control to meet their individuals needs and chosen lifestyle.”