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Autism strategy launched
New support for people with autism and their families was announced recently by Michael Matheson.
The Public Health Minister said £13.4 million would be invested in the Scottish Government and COSLA's new autism strategy over the next four years - £3.4 million more than originally pledged - to build on improvements to autism services and access to these services.
The funding package will be used to:
fund the recruitment of local autism co-ordinators to provide information, advice and support
support the Scottish Autism Services Network, which builds competence in the workforce to assist post diagnostic support
help people access social care services
create a development fund of £1 million per annum, for which both local and national organisations can apply
develop new one stop shop drop-in services for people with autism around Scotland
One such service already in operation is Number 6, an Edinburgh-based centre for adults with High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger Syndrome, where the strategy was launched today. The centre supports individuals in many ways including providing social skills training and sessions on how to access work opportunities.
Mr Matheson said:
"People with autism and their families need to be supported by a wide range of services such as social care, education, housing, employment and other community based services. I am delighted therefore to be launching, with COSLA, the Scottish Strategy for Autism, backed up with £13.4m of resources, to deliver the improvements necessary for the individuals and families.
"This includes the appointment of local autism co-ordinators who will help ensure people with autism are given the care and support they need in a way which promotes their independence and emotional well-being and respects their dignity.
"We also want to see more drop-in centres similar to Number 6, which provides services under one roof for people with autism.
"The new strategy includes recommendations which we will now take forward with our colleagues in local government. We will each receive an annual progress report for which we will be jointly accountable."
Cllr Douglas Yates, COSLA's Health and Well-being Spokesperson, said:
"I'm really pleased that we've set out our vision for supporting people with autism in Scotland. Taken together, the strategy's recommendations promise to deliver a step-change in the way services, support options and interventions are coordinated and provided at a local level. While recognising that there is still much to do, I am convinced that the effective roll-out of this strategy across Scotland will improve the health and well-being of people who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders."
Dr Jane Neil-Maclachlan, NHS Lothian Adult Autism Co-ordinator and Lead Clinician for the Regional ASD Consultancy Service, said:
"This strategy provides a welcome structure for the development and continuation of appropriate services for people with autism and their families."
At today's launch Mr Matheson met David Moore and Jennifer Hunter who have Asperger Syndrome (AS).
David who is 32 and from Edinburgh said:
"My diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome helped me because I then understood how some of my social difficulties had affected me and what practical support I needed. I hope that the strategy will lead to the development of better services for people on the autism spectrum."
Jennifer who is 28 and also from Edinburgh added:
"Knowing how difficult it is to grow up being different from everybody else, I hope that, through supporting the families of children with AS, people with AS can learn strategies to help them to feel part of society. The new Scottish Autism Strategy will be a valuable guide to how this can happen for people with Autism in Scotland. "