David Malins: The Asperger's Syndrome Pioneer

Blog (Anecdotal)

The FoI request battle: Analysis so far of services in Wales

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 11:50 PM

Many of you who have been monitoring my social media may have noticed that 2 months ago, I had sent to nearly every Welsh Council a Freedom of Information request to get an overview of what services were available to Adults on the spectrum in Wales and their families and to guage what the attitude was to those on the spectrum in general. It was also the only way to get a complete analysis on how the Autism Strategic Action Plan had (or in some cases had not) been implimented.

Three questions were asked in this:

1. Do you (the Local Authority) have a fully-functioning Autism Strategic Action Plan and Stakeholder Committee in place? (Of which can you send the agreed action plan for the most recent period)?

2. What is the main focus of service provision that your Autism Strategic Action Plan concentrates on and how much (as of a rough percentage) is this business on Adult and Old Age Services?

3. Can you confirm the number of persons with an Autistic Spectrum Condition that have been sitting on the Stakeholder Committee in the role of an Adult or ServiceUser Representative? (If there is no such person, why?)

These three questions were specifically designed to focus on the parts that I felt most adults and their families wanted to know about the Autism Action Plan in their areas, as well as a test to judge what the response would be when asking for each area's interpretation, operation of and attitudes towards adult autism services (particularly in accountability, transition and self-advocacy from service users).

Question 3 was left deliberately inspecific as to what a "service user representative" was so that the importance as well as the efforts of each council in self-advocacy could be judged and how far those areas needed to go to become "neurodiverse" service delivering authorities. Since the request also asked for anonymised numbers of people involved in the representation process, this would make it easier at a later date to judge where best to target my hopes of a wider Aspie Adult Representative Network, as well as help to analyse any problems in implimentation this might get to at a later date.

So, the result so far....

After the mandatory 40 day deadline for requests to be received (nearly 2-3 months on since I asked the questions), most of Wales' Local Authorities (L.A.s) have responded to the 3 questions I sent them within the limit, with only around 3-4 L.A.s giving either unacceptable, delayed or no reply (and in 2 cases no recept of acknowledgement that a request was asked) to the FoI request sent them.

Question 1 on the whole was answered by most authorities satisfactorily, with many providing details as to the latest action plan for that period in various attatchments)

Question 2 varied in response from each LA. Only a couple decided to answer directly the percentage of it's business that focused on the Autism Action Plan, whilst others gave often lengthy excuses as to their service focus. This in part was due to the different ways in implimentation and the various departments given often mixed or confusing responsibility. It was quite consistant to see many LAs focus on early years education services rather than post-16 adult services for those on the spectrum, this is despite a couple of LAs giving near 50% figures for the comparison between these.

Question 3 was the most disappointing (at one point, an LA described it 'good relations with those affected by autism', giving little more detail as to how such relations were maintained and how the LA is held to account by the wider Autism Community at large) and whilst many did recognise the role of parent representatives and support group co-ordinators, little appreciation was given to actual self-advocates on the spectrum sitting on their boards: Surprisingly the amount of detail provided on this question ranged from a run-down on complete membership of the committees including actual adult representatives as hinted in the question, right down to one LA mistaking the request of numbers of representatives for confidential details of members sat on the boards.

Major FoI request problem areas:

In review of information received so far, about 3-4 LAs were presented as having very serious problems both in terms of accountability to the Aspie Community and their families, as well as having the least satisfactory replies of all the Local Authorities in Wales to the FoI.

Out of this, as well as the various queries and views of service users, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Local Authorities were identified as the areas where implimentation issues have been critical priority to the Aspie Community in Wales. These two authorities will now be the focus of an immediate investigation into their implimentation of the Autism Action Plan and Adult Services to those with Autistic Spectrum Conditions since they failed to give satisfactory answers both to the FOI request and to other service users who have approached me to look into this further.

A further analysis will be provided once all Local Authoritiy data has been looked at in detail, with this being reported back in time for the Consultation of the All-Wales Stategic Action Plan by the Welsh Government. All copies of the FOI requests and each LA's Action Plan will be made available for download at the same time.

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1 Comment

Reply Cath Dyer
3:00 AM on August 23, 2012 
Thanks David. At least it shows that we are not alone in fighting for our autistic children. Look forward to meeting you next week.