Families’ fear as autism service faces cash crisis
Motivated mums and dads are rallying to the cause to save Perth Autism Support after being plunged into uncertainty.
The charity announced on Thursday night last week it needs around £120,000 to help keep its core work afloat after initial requests for financial support to Perth and Kinross Council and NHS Tayside were repeatedly turned down, it says.
At the time, hundreds of service users – including several based in Strathearn – were told that all services would be suspended from Friday. A large turnout of users filled the charity’s headquarters in Perth on Friday afternoon.
The crisis led to calls from both users’ parents and politicians for the Scottish Government, the NHS and PKC to step in and ensure its crucial work continues.
On Monday their efforts were boosted by news that PAS has secured Scottish Government funding to see its services through the next quarter.
Angie Ferguson, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted at the quick response from the Scottish Government to ensure our families can access services again immediately and this support allows us time to work with Perth and Kinross Council to ensure continued sustainability after the next quarter.”
Since the news was first revealed a petition, offers of donations and just giving charity page have been set up, while a number of local businesses have offered to help out.
The petition, which will be delivered to NHS Tayside and Perth and Kinross Council, calls for funding support for PAS. It has been signed by thousands of people.
Gemma Mills from Crieff, who has two sons with autism, has been supported by PAS and has won awards for her fundraising in aid of the charity, started an online fundrasing page via www.justgiving.com.
She explained what PAS means to her and her family: “Helping with school meetings, advice, chats, fun and clubs that my boys can go to where the staff are trained and fully understand autism. Without this organisation my boys have no out-of-school activities to attend, we as a family have no support or anywhere to turn for advice. This scares me.”
Muthill mum Mairi MacDonald said: “My son has been a part of Perth Autism Support since 2011.
“PAS has had a huge impact on his development. We would have a very different boy and a very difficult family life without the support and assistance we have received from PAS.
“Now at Crieff High School, my son attended a rural primary school where he had limited access to additional support. There was no support-forlearning base, or staff with specialist knowledge of autism spectrum disorders. PAS helped fill that gap for us. He is now approaching his 13th birthday and we need this support to continue if he is to become an independent adult.”
She continued: “In terms of PAS’s impact on my son’s development, we had a big breakthrough when, after attending a term of music therapy, he began to respond when spoken to. Also after several sessions of Lego therapy, his teachers noticed a big improvement in his ability to understand and carry out classroom instructions.”
Mairi added: “My son regularly participates in the outreach programme run by PAS in Crieff, where he attends activities that would otherwise be off-limits – it is a paradox that his disability excludes him from the very things (such as sports clubs and after-school activities) would benefit him.
“Strategies suggested by PAS have helped enormously – they recommended sleeping under a weighted blanket and now he gets much more sleep (and the rest of the family have a more peaceful time in the evening).
“Through PAS, he has enjoyed several residential activity weekends at Teen Ranch. These trips have undoubtedly helped him reach a greater degree of independence. Before PAS, our support came from occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and parent to parent. Since our involvement with PAS, we have felt no need to contact these services/agencies.”
Campaign Gemma Mills, pictured with Scotland’s Magician during a previous Perth Autism Support fundraiser in Crieff
Concern Families gathered at Perth Autism Support’s base shortly after the news broke last week