Group sitting on beachToday (28 March 2018) the Scottish Government launched its refreshed Scottish Strategy for Autism for 2018-2021. This document sets out the Government’s priorities for action through to 2021, identifying what it will do to improve services and support for autistic people in Scotland.

You can read the refreshed strategy here.

We have campaigned for many years to improve support and services for autistic people. Our campaigning led, in 2011, to the publication of the ten year Scottish Strategy for Autism, which was then updated in 2015. This is the final refresh of the Strategy before it comes to an end in 2021.

During the life of the Strategy, our charity has been a key member of the Governance Group that oversees it. Last November, we also responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on what its priorities should be. We told the Government what we think needs to be done in this final phase to ensure that the Strategy meets its goals.

We also encouraged our supporters to respond to the consultation to let the Government know what action you wanted them to take, and want to thank those of you who took the time to do this. Read the Government’s engagement analysis document which reviews these responses.

In our submission to the consultation, we said that while the Strategy has made some progress over the last seven years, there is still a lot left to do. We think it needs to be strengthened in order to achieve this in its remaining four years. 

Following this consultation period, the Government has now published its plans for the final phase. We welcome many of the actions that have been included in the refresh which address some of the issues that we raised in our response, including:

  • Work with universities who deliver teacher education to explore how they can increase awareness of autism in teacher education. We will continue to call for all teachers to receive training as part of their qualification.
  • Support national autism public awareness campaigns to improve how autistic people and their families’ needs are met and understood within their communities and across all aspects their lives.
  • Encourage organisations to consider making their facilities autism-friendly and enabling.
  • Work with local housing partners to pilot an autism housing project to inform housing practice and awareness of autism to ensure the housing needs of autistic people are well understood across the housing sector.

While these provide a clearer focus than previous versions, we are still concerned that there is a lack of tangible actions in certain areas covered by the Strategy. In particular, we would have liked to have seen more clarity in the following areas:

  

  • Local infrastructure - we believe it was important for the refresh of the Strategy to commit to an evaluation of local autism strategies to determine how successful they have been in delivering positive outcomes for the local autistic population and to help to inform the priorities of a future national strategy.
  • Employment – we believe the Strategy should have committed the Government to ensuring that all staff at the new Fair Start Scotland employment programme receive autism training.
  • Diagnosis – to make progress in this area, we believe that the Strategy should have committed the Government to record, publish and monitor autism diagnosis waiting times in every area, and develop a Local Delivery Plan standard for autism.

 

We will continue to campaign on these issues, and continue to call on politicians in Scotland to do what they can to help make Scotland autism-friendly.

In the last three years of the Strategy’s lifespan, it’s now vitally important that data is gathered and shared on the impact and outcomes of the initiatives it has brought about. We will continue to work with the Government, through our campaigning work and our involvement in the Governance Group that oversees the Strategy, to do what we can to assist them in meeting the objectives set out in this Strategy.

You can keep up to date with all of our campaigning work by signing up to receive our campaign updates.