Understanding Autism – A New National Programme


Inspiring Scotland and The Scottish Government will be working together on a new national programme to raise understanding of autism in Scotland. This announcement was made by Ms Claire Haughey, Minister for Mental Health, at the Scottish Strategy for Autism Seventh Annual Conference in Glasgow on the 26th March 2019. We welcome the Scottish Government’s focus on improving the lives of autistic people and are delighted to be a partner in that work.

This new programme of work is a direct response to The Scottish Government’s 2017 Engagement Exercise, which consulted with over 1,000 people – including autistic people, parents and carers and organisations. The consultation asked participants what changes need to be made for autistic people to enjoy healthier lives, have choice and control over services, live independently and be active citizens.

The feedback from participants involved in the Engagement Exercise overwhelmingly emphasised the need to raise understanding of autism.

One participant said that raising understanding of autism would contribute to the development of ‘a culture of empathy and understanding’ that will ‘help to integrate and support people with autism to engage as more active citizens’. It is this culture of empathy and understanding which we seek to build.

The consultation feedback was also clear that we need to shift public perception away from seeing autism as a ‘defect’ to seeing it as a ‘difference’, otherwise exclusion will continue.

One participant summed this up as people should be encouraged to see an autistic person’s ‘skills as well as their difficulties’ and to appreciate the ‘huge benefit people with ASD bring to society’.

As another participant said autistic people are ‘often even better at doing things than the rest of the public, simply because of their autism’.

We want to build a Scotland where everyone is accepted and valued for who they are. Where everyone’s talents are celebrated and where we are each given the encouragement and support to reach our potential.

Celia Tennant, Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland said:

“We strive for a Scotland without poverty or disadvantage, and welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to improving the lives of autistic people. These steps aim to increase society’s understanding of autism, to move away from stereotypes and to make clear the many strengths autistic people bring to society.

“We are proud to be a partner in this programme and look forward to working with autistic people, charities and organisations to create change for autistic people in Scotland.”

This new programme will only be possible through collaboration. The autistic community, local and national charities and organisations will all be at the heart of this work as it progresses.


The full Scottish Government press release can be viewed here: 

Please follow us on Twitter @innovateautism for the latest news.


Resilience in the charity sector is more important than ever

Resilience is more important now than ever for the charity sector – but it is just the beginning of the journey we need to take, says Julia Abel, Head of Funds at Inspiring Scotland.

Being resilient to shocks and change is more important for the charity sector now than it has ever been. I need hardly utter why; we live in tumultuous times both at home and in the wider world where it is no longer a surprise to find surprises around every corner.

The uncertainty this causes is challenging for everyone in society, and can have an acute effect on those of us in the charity sector striving to improve the lives of the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Whether you’re a local charity providing a vital service to a marginalised group of people, or a funder providing the essential support to these services, doubt about the future is an anathema.

Everyone in the charity sector works towards the same goal – a better life for all of us – and a situation where financial decisions are pressured and organisations are having to rely on a smaller pot of funding is not a position anyone wants to be in but it can seem unavoidable when so much uncertainty abounds.

If critical charities cannot survive through difficult times it is the vulnerable of society who will suffer, both those seeking help today and those who will need help tomorrow, and it is no exaggeration to say it is sometimes a matter of life or death.

For a charity, being resilient is about more than surviving; it’s about being able to react and adapt to changes and to bounce back stronger. For a funder, it’s having the confidence that whatever support can be provided will be used in the most effective and sustainable way.

At Inspiring Scotland, we are striving for a Scotland without poverty or disadvantage. To do that, we know that we need a strong third sector. We collaborate with people, communities, government and the third sector to help essential charities to become extraordinary charities so that, together, we can make Scotland a better place for everyone to live.

The first step on this journey is to build resilience; to help the charities we support develop stronger governance, achieve lasting social impact, diversify funding and create robust processes to ensure their survival and allow them to continue their work. But that is just the beginning.

We do not accept the status quo. We are here to solve the deep-rooted social problems that have affected generations of people – problems like poverty, ill-health, mental illness and social isolation to name just a few. And that means being bold about changing the way we work so that an uncertain future can faced with confidence.

The problem is uncertainty can also make individual people hesitate and fear to explore new ideas and develop innovative solutions because without the surety of future support we all become risk-averse.

When we work with charities, we also work with the people who work for them and the sectors they work in. We know the people we support and strive to understand their challenges, concerns and goals. This approach helps us to galvanise the amazing people who make up Scotland’s third sector and steer a collaborative approach to changing lives.

We have seen the amazing things that can be achieved when organisations and people are resilient and the confidence that creates to work together and move forward with big ideas – just look at the successes of the 14:19 Fund, Link Up or go2play where committed, flexible and personalised support has helped to transform charities, sectors and communities and inspire individuals.

Building stronger charities and stronger leaders is crucial if we are to improve people’s lives and the challenges now are greater than ever, but it’s the possibilities that can be built on a strong foundation are truly inspiring.

Resilience is just the start of the journey and we are here for the long haul.

Julia Abel, Head of Funds, Inspiring Scotland