Published: 03/07/2009 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 13:47

Council stands accused of reneging on autism pledges

AUTISTIC adults in Inverness continue to feel abandoned because support services promised by Highland Council almost two years ago are still not in place.

While the local authority has started to re-shuffle its social work teams to provide the necessary support, the Autism Rights Group Highland (ARGH) says at present services in the city remain inadequate.

In September 2007 the Scottish Society of Autism's (SSA) office in Inverness closed after funding was withdrawn.

The council promised to provide replacement services, but ARGH ays there is still no support.

"We have been promised for some time now two social work posts for Inverness who will have responsibility for autistic adults," said Kerry Brook, chairwoman of ARGH.

"They will have a case load and will also be responsible for training. There will, after these posts are filled, be further appointments to cover the rest of the Highland region.

"Deadlines for when the posts will be filled have come and gone and we are left not knowing what to believe."

She explained the consultation to discuss possible options with the funding available took place in 2007 when the SSA office closed.

"This month we have been told that the recruitment process is about to start again," she added. "Currently there is no support service aimed specifically at autistic adults anywhere in Highland and the Scottish Society of Autism is greatly missed by many.

"We are sign-posted towards duty social work and the official line is that they will be of help to anyone in need.

"The truth though is that awareness of autism is poor and the service inadequate."

She added that when the SSA office closed many people felt abandoned. "It certainly feels as though nothing has changed," she said.

Social work officials say the move to appoint new specialist posts has been delayed because of issues outside the council's control.

A spokeswoman said a new social worker specialising in autism has recently been appointed in the Caithness, Sutherland and East Ross area and recruitment was under way in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

"As soon as all posts are filled, specialist training will begin," she said. "The appointment of new social workers to provide each of our younger adults teams with a specialist autism social worker involved the reallocation of resources which had been dedicated to supporting people resident in New Craigs to move to their own houses.

"Unfortunately, the closure of the beds at New Craigs was delayed by factors outwith the council's control."

Autism is a neurological condition that affects one in 110 people in Scotland.

It is characterised by impairments in social interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

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