The County You Live, Work And Play
Second Protest Outside SLC HQ
Parents campaigning against the closure of Lanarkshire’s Autism One Stop Shop staged another protest this week outside South Lanarkshire Council’s headquarters.
Campaigners say they have been dealt yet another blow by the local authority, who they say refused an offer from the Scottish Government of a Scottish Autism advisor while they made the transition to the new South Lanarkshire One Stop Shop (SLOSS).
Users say they have been holding meetings with council officials to discuss how the new SLOSS will work in practice but say they are still “disappointed” by the council’s reaction to their suggestions.
Jennifer Gough, of Hamilton, who has helped to lead a campaign to reinstate the original Autism One Stop Shop in Motherwell, said: “This week’s meeting was another disaster, parents breaking down in tears because there is no help while we’re told we don’t need an autism advisor. We, the parents, are experts who should be sharing our wealth of experience around the group.
“We have consistently said since April or May we need an autism advisor and they tell us they are feeding this back to officers in charge. Despite this, they turn down the offer of a Scottish Autism worker who would be made available until March next year.”
Karen Noble, of Hamilton, who has also been active in the campaign to keep the original One Stop Shop open, added: “The service from the council still does not fit our basic needs, given they have still not provided expert autism advisors to support us. Last week the council rejected an offer of an autism advisor from the Scottish Government, to embed into the South Lanarkshire Council service through to March next year. This member of staff would have been supplied by the Scottish Autism organisation, a trusted and expert organisation. This was an intervention the government took to fill the existing gap and help families access help once more since the Motherwell One Stop Shop closed on June 3, and families have been without support since that time.
“Families are bereft the council would make such a cruel decision to reject such an offer, which would have provided us with the much-needed support we have asked them for, and it would have demonstrated the council are committed to developing their service to be fit for purpose and reflect the needs of users.”
Maureen Watt, Scottish Government minister for mental health said: “South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership were grateful for our offer of a Scottish Autism Advisor but declined on the basis that they are already making rapid progress in implementing their plans for a well-integrated autism support service. They did, however, make it clear they will continue to engage with the Scottish Government and the National Autism Network as they take their local strategy forward.”
Brenda Hutchinson, social work head of service, said: “There has been no offer of direct funding from the Scottish Government for the One Stop Shop for people in South Lanarkshire with autism and their families and carers. If such an offer were to be made, it would be welcomed.
“At a meeting on June 17, Scottish Government officials discussed potential temporary arrangements they might make with Scottish Autism. However, the council is pleased with the progress being made by the Health and Social Care Partnership in developing the South Lanarkshire One Stop Shop.
“We have already put in place interim arrangements to make sure there is no gap in provision over the summer, including an advice helpline, a drop-in centre and thrice-weekly support groups.
“We continue to work with parents and carers, and all of those involved in all sectors providing autism supports, to ensure the South Lanarkshire One Stop Shop offers an improved, fully-integrated and well-promoted service to meet the needs of local people.”