As many may remember for 2 years I had been promoting and pursuing a petition to the Scottish Government about it’s failing Autism Strategy and seeking improvements in support services to those living with autism . You can see it Here
It has now been through the Parliamentary Petition Committee (PPC) at the Scottish Parliament and largely been dismissed. This outcome is hugely disappointing and disheartening although predictable if I am honest.
As many of you know I have on health grounds been advised to step back from the difficult and stressful work of Inspired by Autism.
I have been trying to find the energy to provide some closing information on the petition for all who are affected and contributed in good faith and hope. I have greatly struggled to do this and find the whole matter soul destroying and damaging on a personal level.
Being still up on Care duty at 4.30 am I have attempted to complete a feedback questionnaire requested by the PPC. It is very draining to rake over this futile process once again and so I have simply decided to share my feedback to the PPC with you. The link above will take you to all the content of the petition and process if you wish to explore it.
Scottish Parliament – Feedback to P.P.C.
As a petitioner, we would be interested to hear your views on the process and the way in which your petition was dealt with. The questionnaire is an anonymous one, should only take a few minutes to complete and will provide valuable feedback.
We very much appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your views.
The Parliamentary process
1. Did you receive the right amount of help from the clerks throughout the process? [1: yes at all times – 5: not at all]
1 2 3 4 5
2. Were you kept informed throughout the process?
[1: yes, at all times – 5: no, not at all]
1 2 3 4 5
3. Thinking about the process that your petition went through, how fairly do you think your petition was dealt with?
Sadly I feel that the process is very poor, complex to participate in and ultimately a waste of time. It amounted to gesture democracy without any power. From the start I had difficulties getting what was a very strong and important message from the autism community heard. (Check my file!) Through dogged persistence it got to the PPC. At discussion PPC members were very vague, appeared mildly disinterested and incredibly many had little or nothing to say about the issues. This was so very disappointing. Further evidence and responses were sought from L. A. ‘s and some other autism agencies as well as the A.N.S. (The government agency delivering their strategy) Even after a second approach from the PPC an unacceptably low number of L.A.’s responded and those that did were characterised by denial or the usual glossing over using jargon etc. These responses were not subjected to any level of real scrutiny and incredibly were not counter balanced by any attempt to engage with autistic people or those living with autism. The general message summarised by the PPC from L.A.’s input, limited as it was, was one of ‘we have adequate policy in place and that changes are not required ‘.
In an attempt to have the voice of service users heard I had submitted pages of comments from the original Change.org petition. Although eventually a link was provided this crucial input was neither considered or explored. The treatment of the petition by the PPC was incredibly skewed towards the opinions of service providers that were given more prominence and influence than those who use the services. The phrase turkeys don’t vote for Christmas comes to mind sadly. Ultimately the PPC took the easy and predictable route of ‘kicking the can down the road’ by deciding to close the petition while saying they would pass information on to other committees for their information. I don’t expect to hear anything else about these matters.
On a personal level the platitudes offered by the PPC were predictable and patronising. During the process that took going on for 2 years I eventually became unwell through stress, anxiety and burn out caused by being an unpaid carer to a severely autistic child, running an autism support charity in my home town that tried to bridge the many gaps in service, participate in ongoing lobbying for change and hold down a day job in social work. Following medical advice I was strongly urged to withdraw from all but my son’s care, which alone was identified as an enormous task. I informed the PPC of this and gave permission to share this as I felt it illustrated the plight of so many within the autism community. At the PPC this was not made clear although references were made to the ‘petitioner’ being ‘unfortunately unable to continue pursuing the petition aims’. Surely getting the petition to the PPC should have been enough and the issues serious enough to take forward some real measurable action?
All in all this entire process has been a sham and sadly ultimately a waste of my precious time and energy. At every turn the odds are stacked against a petitioner and the ‘scrutiny ‘ of the PPC was based heavily on the rather inaccurate and limited input from those with a responsibility to provide statutory support. It should have not been beyond the scope of the PPC to hear directly from those living with autism in Scotland but this was not facilitated.
4. What did you hope to achieve by submitting your petition?
To draw attention to the many flaws and deficits in autism support services in Scotland. To highlight the complete failure of the Scottish Autism Strategy and to help shape a meaningful solution or way forward.
5. How do you feel about the outcomes?
Disappointed, let down but not particularly surprised. See above.
6. What do you think were the best things about the petitions system?
Please enter your comments here:
Nothing was particularly good. One or two of the clerks appeared to have more compassion than the PPC itself and attempted to offer support.
7. How would you like to see the system improved?
There requires to be much greater balance to the PPC scrutiny by taking evidence from all parties. A platform should be provided for those who raise issues to actually be heard from directly. The PPC members should be required to participate and comment on issues raised instead of a ‘no comment ‘ option. PPC members should be tasked with taking actual action on specific issues. It felt like these matters, that represent our whole life, were being lazily and half heartedly passed about by MSP’s with no real enthusiasm. The process was a very superficial one and requires tightening and focus, even if this meant hearing fewer. That said this process should be a central part of democracy and resources appropriately.
Any comments that you make may be used anonymously in publications, on the website or any other public format used by the Scottish Parliament. If you would prefer not to have any of your comments reproduced in any way please indicate this clearly by ticking this box. 0
THANK YOU FOR TAKING TIME TO COMPLETE THE QUESTIONNAIRE. Please return to:
Clerk to the Public Petitions Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Room T3-40, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP.