Coun­cil slammed as Ar­gyll autism group is wound up

Argyllshire Advertiser - - NEWS - Colin Cameron ed­i­tor@ar­gyll­shiread­ver­tiser.co.uk

Af­ter 18 years of sup­port­ing peo­ple af­fected by autism, a group set up by fam­i­lies, for fam­i­lies, voted last week to wind it­self up.

The fi­nal an­nual gen­eral meet­ing of Autism Ar­gyll at Ar­rochar’s Three Vil­lages Hall on on Septem­ber 13 was an oc­ca­sion filled with emo­tion – and plenty of tears.

Ali­son Leask and Mau­reen MacIn­tosh were founder mem­bers of Autism Ar­gyll in 2000, and in her fi­nal chair­per­son’s re­port Ali­son said: ‘This is a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment for the or­gan­i­sa­tion, par­tic­u­larly for Mau­reen and my­self.’

There are a num­ber of rea­sons why Autism Ar­gyll has de­cided to wind up its op­er­a­tion, said Ali­son. Hav­ing moved to Glas­gow, Ali­son can no longer chair the group as a non-Ar­gyll res­i­dent. She added that there was a de­gree of ‘com­mit­tee fa­tigue’ among the group, while the com­puter equip­ment used by Autism Ar­gyll is get­ting past its sell-by date.

But the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in end­ing Autism Ar­gyll, said Ali­son, was a lack of sup­port from se­nior man­age­ment at Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil over many years.

She said: ‘Ar­gyll and Bute has an agreed and pub­lished Autism Strat­egy, which the au­thor­ity com­mis­sioned Scot­tish Autism to pro­duce. There is also an im­ple­men­ta­tion plan. How­ever, nei­ther is pro­moted and both are largely ig­nored.

‘The only time se­nior man­age­ment ap­pear to take any in­ter­est in those in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies liv­ing with autism is if it they think it is go­ing to cost the au­thor­ity money.

‘At se­nior man­ager level, Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil has re­jected our knowl­edge, re­buffed our ex­pe­ri­ences, frus­trated our ef­forts, sapped our en­thu­si­asm, drained our good­will and de­feated us.’

There is good news, how­ever.

Op­er­at­ing in Ar­gyll and Bute with the sup­port of Scot­tish Autism, the Get Set 4 Autism project pro­vides on­line re­sources for pro­fes­sion­als deal­ing with autism.

Par­ents of re­cently di­ag­nosed chil­dren also have ac­cess to an autism ad­vi­sor and the Right Click on­line pro­gramme, help­ing to pro­vide clear, timely and sen­si­ble in­for­ma­tion and sup­port.

Ali­son con­tin­ued: ‘Autism Ar­gyll has raised aware­ness, im­proved knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing, and forged part­ner­ships with in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Scot­tish Autism. We should be proud of our achieve­ments.’

Re­spond­ing to the crit­i­cism, an Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil spokesper­son said: ‘We are sad­dened that Autism Ar­gyll has been dis­solved and we thank the or­gan­i­sa­tion for its work down the years to educate the wider com­mu­nity on autism and to sup­port peo­ple liv­ing with the con­di­tion.

‘We are work­ing with our part­ners, in­clud­ing Cor­ner­stone and Scot­tish

Autism, on the de­vel­op­ment of res­i­den­tial re­sources in Gare­lochhead and He­lens­burgh, and also to im­prove ser­vices for peo­ple with autism across Ar­gyll and Bute by way of in­tro­duc­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the Autism Tool­box.

‘Ad­di­tion­ally, we have en­gaged with Autism Net­work Scot­land for its as­sis­tance in fur­ther im­ple­ment­ing our autism strat­egy, and these meet­ings will con­tinue.’

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for autism sup­port also falls un­der the re­mit of Ar­gyll and Bute Health and So­cial Care Part­ner­ship, and a spokesman con­firmed that it had ad­ver­tised for a new autism prac­ti­tioner.

He added: ‘We have been work­ing closely with our part­ners to sup­port those in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing in Ar­gyll and Bute with autism and we have been ex­plor­ing how we can build on the cur­rent ser­vices that are avail­able.’

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Com­mit­tee mem­bers past and present gather for the last-ever Autism Ar­gyll AGM.

Back to the be­gin­ning – Autism Ar­gyll is formed in 2000.

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It was an emo­tional oc­ca­sion for founder mem­bers Mau­reen MacIn­tosh, left, and chair­woman Ali­son Leask.

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