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(UK) Scotland: Call for "Autism Commissioner"; $57M for "neurodevelopmental services"

Jan 21, 2023, Scotland National: ‘Frustration’ on lack of Scottish autism commissioner
AN Autism Commissioner is “desperately needed” in Scotland to stop neurodivergent people being marginalised across “every organ of the state”, charities and those with lived experience have told the Sunday National.

A report produced by the National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism last week showed how 96% of 1215 people surveyed supported creating an independent commissioner who could hold local and central government to account, promote good practice and ensure autistic people have a “powerful ally” embedded in law they can turn to.

The Scottish Government committed to the introduction of an Autism, Learning Disability and Neurodiversity Bill in 2021 which includes the appointment of a commissioner to uphold and protect the rights of autistic people.

But the bill is yet to be launched with the consultation not set to begin until the second half of this year – something charities have described as “disappointing”.

Meanwhile, the report has proven autistic people, family carers and professionals from across Scotland feel there is a dire need for change in almost every aspect of society from mental health support to education, social care and employment.

Charlene Tait, deputy chief executive of Scottish Autism, insisted there was a need for systematic change to bring an end to the heartache autistic people face in everyday life….

As things stand, many autistic children struggle to attend school because of various challenges they face such as the sensory environment and bonding with other pupils.

The report states how some children can end up excluded from school due to a lack of attendance or after being deemed disruptive.

Elsewhere, adults and children often find themselves fighting the system for years to get a diagnosis of autism and are sometimes misdiagnosed with a mental health problem.

Families have also complained of facing mammoth waits for their children to be seen by Camhs – the NHS service that works with children experiencing problems with their mental health….

The top proposed duties of the commissioner from the report in order were: hold local authorities, service providers and the Scottish Government to account; promote an understanding of autism to the wider public; support individuals and families to address issues and make complaints, and gather data on meeting autistic people’s needs….

The Scottish Government said scoping work on the bill was carried out between May and July last year, which involved 30 events with 18 different organisations to consider how people with lived experience viewed the legislation.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This financial year we have allocated £46million [$57M] to improve the delivery of mental health and psychological services including Camhs, psychological therapies, eating disorders and neurodevelopmental services.

“There will be a consultation later this year on the Learning Disability, Autism and Neurodiversity Bill – including the creation of a Commissioner.”

Rob Holland is the director of the National Autistic Society Scotland

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