Local Autism Planning and Implementation: a National Event

Local Autism Planning and Implementation: a National Event was held at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow on
19 January, 2015.  Presentations from the day and a detailed summary of the day’s events are posted below.

Presentation – Peter McCulloch, Renfrewshire Council and Social Work Scotland

Presentation – Alan Best, Inverclyde Council

Presentation – Arlene Johnstone, NHS Highland

Presentation – Pauline McCartan, HOPE for Autism

Presentation – Donald Macleod, National Autism Co-Ordination Project

Autism strategy national event held in Glasgow

On 19 January 2015, Local Autism Planning and Implementation: a National Event was held at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.  Hosted by the National Autism Co-ordination Project (NACP), the event aimed to foster collaboration and best practice sharing between local authorities across Scotland as they work to create and implement local autism strategies and plans. 

Professor Jean MacLellan, Lead Co-Ordinator of the NACP, started the day with a call to attendees to become a “community of practice”, encouraging them to form a collaborative.  Together, she said, “we will be maximising [the] collective impact we can have across Scotland”.   She reminded the group that local authorities are best placed to form meaningful connections with their communities and that, despite challenges of local political commitment and sustainability, she re-iterated “together we can make that collective impact”.

Jean outlined the performance indicators recently drafted by the NACP in partnership with Social Work Scotland that could potentially be adopted by each local authority as a way to assure consistency across areas, while leaving room for individual approaches to the unique issues found in each area.   She asked attendees to “commit to communicate” and keep motivated.  She ended with a quote from Helen Keller:Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”.

Peter McCulloch, Renfrewshire Council

Keynote speaker, Peter McCulloch of Renfrewshire Council and Social Work Scotland, talked about the past successes and current status of The Scottish Strategy for Autism.  He then outlined the next stage of the Strategy, which includes the implementation of the Menu of Interventions, evaluation of One Stop Shops and the development and implementation of local autism plans.

He then described the process Renfrewshire used to create and implement their autism plan.  He stressed the importance of identifying and engaging with all key partners, starting with service users, their families and carers.

One unique element in their plan was the inclusion of the “I am Me” programme.
I Am Me is a community group which aims to raise awareness of disability hate crime.  The group has developed a play, “aimed at challenging attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people” that has been delivered to thousands of people, including schoolchildren throughout Renfrewshire.   The group is also working with Police Scotland on a Keep Safe initiative, which works with local business to create safe areas, identified with the Keep Safe logo on a prominently displayed sticker, for people feeling vulnerable in the community.

Peter closed the presentation with a look at the wider agenda that Renfrewshire’s Autism Strategy Group is considering; this includes Self-Directed Support, integration of health and social care, improving quality and consistency of supports, getting better services, and funding.

The rest of the morning brought speakers from a variety of settings across Scotland.  Alan Best spoke about the way in which Inverclyde Council had approached their local autism strategy; after drafting the strategy, they held an event with 135 attendees, including young people.  The day included a variety of presentations from young people, practitioners, and health workers, followed by workshops; the day was chaired by a comedienne with experience of autism, who acted as emcee for the day.   The local authority is now using the data gathered on the day to guide their work going forward.  Two key areas of focus they identified were employment and “included and involved”.  Alan called the local Strategy “a community document” and re-iterated their commitment to continued consultation with a range of stakeholders.

Arlene Johnstone of NHS Highland then spoke about the challenges and successes faced by the group working on the Highland Strategy.  The group working on the strategy, Highland Autism Improvement Group (HAIG), is currently “undergoing a period of consultation” as they re-group and look for the best way to move forward.  Meanwhile, the area has seen many successes, including improvements in diagnostic waiting lists, training for General Practitioners, employer events and the opening of a One Stop Shop.  Another upcoming innovation is a new housing project, which is currently in the planning and tendering stage.  The building, will house six people and will be located in the Conon Bridge development.  This new service will not only provide specialist support to people with autism, but will accommodate families impacted by autism, with access to support.

Pauline McCartan, HOPE for Autism

Pauline McCartan of HOPE for Autism then spoke about how her organisation engaged the local community in the development of the North Lanarkshire local autism action plan.  HOPE held two engagement events, one with young people and one for parents, in which participants were asked about their familiarity with The Scottish Strategy for Autism and the North Lanarkshire Action Plan, with participants then giving feedback on the local plan.  HOPE also asked how participants would like to be involved moving forward.  Young people asked for more social media, consultation through familiar people (like HOPE), a campaign on TV, posters and forums, and overall more use of internet mediums.  Parents asked for plain, simple language, consultation events, newsletters and online surveys.  Since then, HOPE has become active on Facebook, and uses Survey Monkey for online surveys (posted via Facebook to their members and followers).  They have also used the mobile messaging app WhatsApp to stay in touch with their stakeholders and are using Talking Mats to gather input from people with communication difficulties.

Finally, Donald Macleod, Project Manager for the NACP, closed the morning’s presentations with a review of the four goals of the current phase of The Scottish Strategy for Autism.  The four goals include improving access to integrated service provision; access to transition planning across the lifespan; adoption of good autism practice; and building capacity and awareness in mainstream services.   The goals are an important element of the Strategy to keep in mind as local autism strategies and plans are written and implemented, in moving towards the mid-point of the ten year strategy.

The afternoon included three workshops, all of which were attended by every delegate.  The workshops focused on complex care and out of area placements; tools for the job; and local autism plans: from design to implementation.

The day was well-received by those in attendance, many of whom commented that it was good to see that local authorities across Scotland were struggling with some of the same issues.  A few people noted that they were quite affected by Arlene’s presentation, where she said that plans for individuals shouldn’t be created based on “the worst 15 minutes of [your] life”.  One attendee summed up the day, saying it was a “good networking opportunity and has supported [and] encouraged development of our local strategy”.