Many autistic people and people with a learning disability in Scotland are facing crisis as they struggle to access much needed support in education, work, health care as well as social care and support within the community.

In response, National Autistic Society Scotland, ENABLE Scotland and Scottish Autism have joined forces to call on all the major political parties in Scotland to commit to a Commissioner for autistic people and people with a learning disability to ensure real change.

In the lead up to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May 2021, the charities have launched the ‘Our Voice Our Rights’ Campaign which aims to make Scotland the best country in the world for the 56,000 autistic people, the 120,000 people with a learning disability and their families in Scotland. 

Peter McMahon who has a learning disability and is a member of ENABLE Scotland said: “We need a Commissioner for Learning Disability and Autism so that people who have a learning disability like me aren’t put on the back burner or forgotten about.

"With a Commissioner working with us we can improve access to services and speak up for people when they cannot. Most importantly we can help people live good lives with choice and control and free from discrimination. People with learning disabilities feel invisible, we don’t want to be the invisible people any more and feel a Commissioner would help us."

Families locked in a battle to get access to desperately needed services

A website is now live with a series of videos featuring people from across Scotland making the case for change. People can support the campaign by visiting the website and contacting the party leaders to include a Commissioner for autistic people and people with a learning disability in their election manifestos. 

The Commissioner would be the first of its kind in the world, established in law to champion the human rights of autistic people and people with a learning disability. The charities say this would be a powerful voice, improving access to services and advocating on people’s behalf when they cannot and importantly helping people have the choice and control to live a good life, free from discrimination.

They would close the current gap – between what the law says and what actually happens in reality. They would lead improvements and importantly people would also have recourse when the system falls short and fails to deliver for them.

Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland said: “We believe a Commissioner would send a clear message that we as a country value autistic people, people with learning disabilities and their families and that Scotland is leading the way in making sure that people get the support they need and we create a more inclusive culture.

"Day in day out we hear from autistic people and families locked in a battle to get access to desperately needed services, a battle which often leaves them frustrated and exhausted and even at crisis point. We believe a commissioner would make the difference: no one should have to fight to get the support they need, to be listened to or to have their human rights respected.”