Doubts have been raised over a north-east council’s commitment to supporting youngsters with autism.
Aberdeenshire Council published a 10-year strategy for autism in 2014 following the launch of national guidelines three years earlier.
This required all local authorities to create strategic plans to ensure those living with the developmental disorder would have as fulfilling lives as possible.
But since that report’s publication – which promised a staged approach aiming to increase access to information, diagnosis and support – it has appeared that the strategy has been abandoned.
The authority confirmed on Facebook that it did “not currently have a stand-alone autism strategy”.
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An Aberdeenshire mother of two autistic boys Fiona Culbert said it raised fundamental questions.
She said: “The Scottish Government decided there needed to be a national strategy.
“There was an Aberdeeenshire strategy and then everything seemed to disappear so people have taken the attitude of if we can help ourselves then we will.
“There have been great organisations set up in Aberdeenshire because of the lack of a plan – and Aberdeen has a strategy and services – but I kept thinking why are we not hearing about something similar in the Shire.
“Really we know that if you want support you go to Aberdeen.
“To me it’s almost like the autistic people in Aberdeenshire aren’t important enough.
“It’s not that I want people to get into trouble but it would be nice if, after four years of waiting, someone said sorry or admitted something went wrong.”
Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett, deputy leader of the cross party group on autism at Holyrood, has been mediating between Ask and the council to get an agreement suitable for all.
He said: “The authority covers a large area with people who need services in urban and rural settings.
“So any autism strategy has to suit those with autism in both town and country.
“It may take Aberdeenshire a little longer to develop for that reason.
“This will promote equality and opportunity for years to come, so the council needs to get it right first time.”
In November 2011, the Scottish Government announced £13 million for a range of autism services alongside a new strategy.
Families at the time welcomed the move after claiming they felt “isolated”.
In 2014, Aberdeenshire Council released its own version of the plan. But since then, the Aberdeen HSCP has taken on responsibility for the needs of adults and education and children’s services are responsible for the needs of children with autism.
The idea behind this is that there is no need for a diagnosis to qualify for help and support from social services under the AHSCP.
But many parents have been unhappy with the lack of support in Aberdeenshire.
In June, there were calls on education chiefs within the council to make the diagnosis process clearer for parents after a motion to discuss it was dismissed.
MSP Alexander Burnett claimed in July that the main issues were the level of support available to children, parents, teachers and employers.
He said: “There remains a lot to be done.”
By comparison, Aberdeen City Council’s autism strategy was established in 2014 and has made significant progress in the intervening period
It is currently being reviewed and a consultation is open for those who interact with the services at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/your-data/privacy-notices/your-data-autism-strategy-consultation