We received an email last night telling us that we are about to lose the only autism specific support and resource we have in our area.
Perth Autism Support (http://www.perthautismsupport.org.uk/) is a charity that receives no funding from Perth and Kinross Council or NHS Tayside, yet both consistently and regularly refer all autism families to them. PAS are critical in the lives of families affected by autism in Perth and Kinross and as of today (Friday 18th August 2017), due to no funding, they have no choice but to close all services.
We are now totally unsupported.
Let me be clear, PAS have an excellent management team and staff body who have worked tirelessly for the past five years to provide an unparalleled service to families and professionals in the area.
Their unique blend of experience, expertise, resources/equipment, staff, and compassion make them the first port of call for us all but it also makes them irreplaceable. They know every one of the 650 children/young people that they support. They know their names, faces, quirks, needs, preferences, characters and families. It is no mean feat to earn the trust and love of a family affected by autism and PAS has earnt ours ten times over. They are invaluable to families like ours.
They provide courses, education, advocacy, peer support, support to schools, socialisation, activities, outings, respite, information, equipment, resources, knowledge, hugs, a listening ear and hope.
We moved to Scotland to give the girls a better way of life, but, life without support is not one where they are likely to achieve their full potential.
I don’t mind admitting I am heart broken and scared. Parenting is hard enough, add in additional needs and it gets even harder and lonelier. To lose our only support in this area is a catastrophic blow.
This is not a case of charity mismanagement by bureaucrats, it is quite simply even more sinister. It is a case of a local council shirking their responsibility to adhere to government strategy by not issuing funding where it is required.
I’d hazard a guess that the knock on effect of this closure on other departments and budgets (eg education, health, mental health, social care, housing, and law enforcement), will be exponentially more than the cost of maintaining this vital service. The very definition of a false economy. Perth and Kinross Council, your short sightedness is as callous as it is appalling.
The Scottish government implemented The Scottish Strategy for Autism in 2011 (http://www.autismstrategyscotland.org.uk/) stating that “Autism is a national priority” and that “The Scottish Government will provide strategic leadership on improving the lives of people affected by autism. It will lead on creating a strategic vision for the development of services and support for people with autism, their families and carers.”
This disastrous closure is a failure which exposes The Strategy as nothing more than lip service and propaganda. The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) desperately need to re-evaluate the deliverance of The Strategy and councils need to be held to account.
Come on Scotland, you can do better than this.