Parents have launched a fight to save the “lifeline” services offered to their children by Perth Autism Support.
It was announced on Friday the charity has been forced to suspend its services amidst a severe funding shortfall after pleas for help for core funding were ignored.
Perth Autism Support provides services for around 650 children and young people and is relied upon by Perth and Kinross Council and NHS Tayside to provide much of their autism care.
They have been heavily criticised by the organisation for failing to back the demands they place upon it with financial support.
It is understood the charity succeeds in providing autism services and support for young people aged 18 and under at a fraction of the cost it could be provided by the council itself.
The Scottish Government may have to step in and provide short-term funding to enable it to continue. High level talks are expected to continue this week.
The Just Giving Page, set up by mum Gemma Mills, whose two children use PAS services, attracted more than £1,700 in pledges within a matter of hours of it being launched.
She initially hopes to raise around £3,000 to help the charity resume its vital work.
Gemma believes it would be a catastrophic if the charity was to disappear.
“I have two boys with autism and PAS has been a lifeline for us,” she said.
“They have helped with school meetings, advice and chats and offer fun and clubs that my boys can go to where the staff are trained and fully understand autism.
“When my boys were diagnosed, on separate occasions, with autism, I was overwhelmed. The families of Perth and Kinross need this organisation.”
Fellow mum Katherine Douglas is behind the petition, which gained almost 2,000 signatures in a matter of hours.
She too payed a glowing tribute to the work of PAS and its staff, saying: “Perth Autism Support has completely transformed life experience, not only for the benefit of our involved family member, but also for the other siblings and the wellbeing of the entire family.
“It is difficult for those who, fortunately, have no experience of this condition to realise just what a constant strain it is on all involved, including friends and school staff.
“Future prospects have improved immeasurably as a result.
“Removal of this fantastic charity would have a severely negative impact on our whole family as well as approximately 650 children and young people and their families in Perth and Kinross.
Politicians have continued to offer their support to the beleaguered charity, which employs 24 staff.
Pete Wishart MSP, who has called for the Scottish Government to step in, visited PAS on Friday and also took to social media to praise The Courier for its support of the charity.
— Pete Wishart (@PeteWishart) August 19, 2017
Mid-Scotland and Fife MSPs, Liz Smith and Murdo Fraser, expressed their disappointment news of the threat it faces and called for a speedy resolution.
Mr Fraser said: “Ensuring children with complex needs like autism are able to access the right type of assistance is imperative and it is my understanding that Perth Autism Support has done a tremendous job in providing this over the course of the past few years.
“Perth Autism Support does not just cater for children suffering with autism but also helps parents with child care techniques and communication strategies, which is incredibly important.
“It is vital that children currently using the service are not cut off and I would encourage all partners to get together to create a long-term strategy for autism care in Perth.”
Ms Smith added: “Perth Autism Support has played a key role in improving the lives of hundreds of children and young people and it is important that this good work is not lost.”