Protest to save autism service

SNP politicians show their support as they joined the campaigners at Motherwell Civic Centre.
SNP politicians show their support as they joined the campaigners at Motherwell Civic Centre.

Campaigners trying to save Scottish Autism’s One Stop Shop in Motherwell held a protest at Motherwell Civic Centre on Monday.

With the North Orchard Street facility due to close in June when Scottish Government funding ends it was hoped North and South Lanarkshire Councils would maintain the service.

More than 5,000 people have now signed a petition calling on the local authorities to act, but the North is concentrating on funding the HOPE for Autism service in Airdrie and the South is considering setting up its own service.

The protestors were joined by SNP councillors Steven Bonnar, Tommy Cochrane, Rosa Zambonini, Liz Irvine and David Stocks, and new Motherwell and Wishaw MSP Clare Adamson.

Councillor Bonnar said: “This is a much-loved and desired service in the area and, while I know times are tough and there are budgets to be considered, when you hear the impact this closure will have on both children and adults it really is something we as a group are looking to support.”

Councillor Cochrane, whose own son is affected by autism, added: “Autism isn’t like having a bad leg that can just be fixed. It is much more complicated than that and it isn’t just something that children grow out of.

“If you look at the council budget the funding needed to keep this service opening would be the equivalent of dropping a pen. Would they miss it? I don’t think so!”

Three of the campaigners, Karen Noble, Jennifer Gough and Debbie Collins, were invited to meet council leader Jim Logue and his depute, Paul Kelly, at the council heaquarters.

Karen said: “The council supports HOPE, which is a great service, but as 52 per cent of our users come from North Lanarkshire it is clearly not the right service for everyone.

“We don’t care where the funding comes from, we just want the politicians who are in charge of budgets worth hundreds of millions to come together and give us the small amount we need.”

Councillor Kelly responded: “We agree completely with the One Stop Shop service users and their families.

“We already support HOPE and there is clearly a demand for increased services, so as our budget has been slashed by Scottish Government it is entirely right we ask them to pay to support us to continue the One Stop Shop.”