Fight to let people with autism have a greater say

A Dundee family are heading to Holyrood today to urge the Scottish Government to give people with autism a say in the decisions that affect them.

Norman Gray and his son Andrew (34), who has Asperger’s syndrome, will accompany actor and campaigner Richard Wilson to deliver the National Autistic Society (NAS) Scotland Count Us In: It Pays To Listen report to Mark MacDonald MSP.

Nearly two-thirds of the people with autisim whose views form the basis of the report said they feel they do not have enough support.

The report calls on the Scottish Government to progress its commitment to people with autism. Of those questioned for the report, 91% said they wanted more say over their support.

Dr Robert Moffat, national director of NAS Scotland said: “It (the Scottish Government’s Autism Strategy for Scotland) is addressing the enormous challenges currently faced by the one in 100 Scots who have autism.

“The Government is also targeting £13.4 million to better support people with autism. We are encouraging government, local authorities and a range of organisations to listen to people with autism and work with them in order to maximise the effectiveness of the Autism Strategy for Scotland.”

The report calls for independent advocacy services being mapped out across all services people with autism need to empower them to advocate for themselves.

It also calls on the Scottish Government to appoint an autism employment ambassador to champion opportunities for people with autism in the workplace.

Norman and Andrew know well that people with autism can be excellent employees.

Norman said: “They are often diligent and show great attention to detail. They just need support at the right time.

“The majority of people with autism want to work so they can be independent and involved with their community, but sometimes they come up against a lack of understanding about their condition.”

Norman is deeply concerned about the UK Government’s planned changes to disability living allowance (DLA) and the negative impact this may have on Andrew’s job as a function waiter at the Invercarse Hotel.

The Government plans to replace DLA with personal Independence payment (PIP) in April.

Norman said: “I am extremely concerned about where Andrew will fit into the Government’s aim of moving from part-time to full-time employment for benefits seekers.

“Andrew’s mentor tells us that part-time is the best option for the hotel and for Andrew. He works very well for up to five hours but thereafter it can be very variable.”

Richard Wilson became the NAS Scotland ambassador last summer.

He said: “The right support at the right time can make the difference between someone experiencing isolation and related mental health problems or leading a fulfilling life and actively contributing to society.

“That’s why I am backing NAS Scotland in its vital work to help make the opinions of people with autism heard.”

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