Commissioner would put rights of autistic people first
A report by National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism found that 96% of people surveyed support a commissioner to promote and protect the rights of autistic people.
The organisations surveyed 1,215 autistic people, family carers and professionals working with autistic individuals.
The report urges the Scottish Government to move forward on its commitment to establish a commissioner “sooner rather than later”, with public consultation now delayed until late 2023.
The survey asked respondents to rank priorities for a commissioner; the majority indicated that the commissioner should hold local authorities, service providers and the Scottish Government to account in providing adequate support to autistic people and their families.
Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents indicate that they need mental health support for themselves or for an autistic person they support, and 49% said they need support in education. Yet first person accounts from autistic people and families in the report show that too many are struggling to get the support they desperately need from public services.
Rob Holland, director of the National Autistic Society Scotland said: “The commitment to establish a commissioner for autistic people and people with a learning disability was an SNP manifesto commitment at the last election, but we’ve only inched forward and now with the delay in the public consultation until the end of this year there’s a very real concern that this important work is simply not being prioritised.
“The longer the delay the longer diagnosis waiting lists grow, the longer people go without the care and support they need, the longer people are stuck in hospital, and the longer children wait for support in school.”
Nicola Cameron, the parent of Alex- (pictured) who is autistic, said: “Our experience has been prolonged, frustrating, and confusing. After six years we are finally getting some clarity on Alex’s support needs. But it is upsetting to have lost critical years that could have been used to make his school experience easier. We have been left to navigate the system on our own, learning as we go and funding everything ourselves. And still we have not heard from CAMHS.
"It is clear resources are stretched and children like Alex are being failed by the services that are meant to help them. Support for young autistic people involves different professions and, because each autistic person is individual, the journey cannot ever be linear. But it can be easier. We feel that a commissioner for autistic people could help to create a more joined up system that prioritises individuals’ needs, and fights for recognition of the autistic community.”
Charlene Tait, deputy chief executive of Scottish Autism added: “Every day we encounter individuals and families whose human rights are being breached as a result of a lack of accountability within the system.
"All too often it feels like the system works against autistic people and their families, when it should be working for them. They need a Commissioner in their corner.
"We consider that the creation of a commissioner is a necessity, and we call on the Scottish Government to develop a sense of urgency on this issue.”