While there have been many ambitious and well-intentioned strategies over the years from Government and partners, and rights are there on paper, we sadly hear day in day out how individuals and families are struggling to get the support they need. Support needed to succeed at school, live within the community, manage mental and physical health as well as help to get into work and build a career.
Families across Scotland bear the mental and emotional bruises from fighting the system to get the support they need for their child often to the detriment of their own careers and relationships. Support for autistic adults is very much dependent on are in many cases people are scarred when services are not there in moments of crisis.
Within the context of the pandemic much of this has been brought into sharp focus with services withdrawn or limited as the system struggles to cope.
We want to see an end to that struggle to get support – we want to see a Scotland where the human rights of autistic people are valued and services are there to empower people to live fulfilling lives as equal citizens.
We understand that many if these issues are shared with those in the learning disability community and that’s why as we approach this year’s Holyrood Election we are standing together with ENABLE Scotland and Scottish Autism and alongside autistic people, people with a learning disability and families to say enough is enough, change is needed.
Our new campaign ‘Our Voice, Our Rights’ calls for something radical - the world’s first commissioner for autistic people and people with a learning disabilities.
Establishing a commissioner would send a clear message that these communities are valued. Importantly they would close the gap between what is meant to happen in policy and in law and what actually happens in reality. They would call attention where services and support are lacking and in extreme cases ask regulators to investigate.
One of the things that really sets our calls for a commissioner apart is that we feel it is vital that they are able to take on individual casework issues. At the moment there are few places for you to turn to if you feel that your human rights have been abused.
Finally, a commissioner would act as an important distributor of best practice and knowledge in often complex and quickly changing fields. They would be a valued partner of the other commissions in Scotland but also of other institutions and organisations across society to get it right for autistic people and their families.
All people in Scotland are important and everyone deserves equal and fair access to the services and support they need to live healthy, meaningful lives. We need to be listening to the voices of people with lived experience in designing and delivering appropriate support and a commissioner would play a powerful role in amplifying these often marginalised voices.
Please support the Our Voice Our Rights campaign by visiting our new and taking action by writing to the political party leaders to include the commissioner concept in their manifesto.
There are 56,000 autistic people and 120,000 people with a learning disability in Scotland. Together with families and allies that is hundreds of thousands of people. Their voices must not be ignored.
Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland. Visit www.OurVoiceOurRights.org or follow #OurVoiceOurRights