Saturday 6 September 2014

NAS offers to meet with families of children placed inappropriately in institutions

So….on 27 August I wrote a letter to Mark Lever, Chief Exec of NAS, enquiring about NAS's support for the families whose children are currently in residential placements at a great distance from home. 
Yesterday I received a response from Mark, which is included below:
Dear Zoe,

Many thanks for writing to me highlighting your concerns about the inappropriate treatment of people with autism by statutory bodies. I completely sympathise with you and agree that the cases you have highlighted are unacceptable, and the relevant bodies need to address these cases as a matter of urgency.

The National Autistic Society does campaign on cases like these in a broader context; in order to affect change when issues like these arise, we make sure we are voicing the interests and concerns of people with autism and their families to inform national policy solutions at Government level. The NAS was a key stakeholder in the review following the horrific events at Winterbourne View and we have been working, alongside other charities like Mencap, to push for changes to the system and ensure that scandals of this nature do not happen again.

When families come to us for support for campaigns like those that you highlighted, we do what we can to help. We have often helped to promote petitions and campaigns, put out media statements or web stories, advise on complaints procedures and put people in touch with lawyers.

However, our resources are limited and we do not have caseworkers. We have a helpline, and have developed relationships with excellent lawyers who we can direct families to. When lawyers consider it to be helpful, we are occasionally asked to provide evidence submissions or third party interventions to strengthen cases and highlight the wider effect rulings can have on other families. However, we are unable to take cases on ourselves – we do not have a legal team.

You are absolutely right that the NAS should be playing our part when these instances arise and I think it would be productive to further explore what more we can do to be there for those families experiencing these horrific situations. To that end, I would be happy to facilitate a wider discussion with any of those families at the heart of the cases you mentioned in your letter, about the role that they would like to see the NAS play.

If that sounds like a useful exercise to you, please let me know and I’ll make arrangements.

Kind regards

End of letter.
I am now in touch with the families to ask if they want to go forward with this and what they want to ask the NAS to do to help them.  I’ve got back to Mark to let him know I’ll be in touch again soon. 
I note Mark’s emphasis on limited resources and the lack of a legal team and wonder what NAS members think about whether NAS should have its own legal team that was set up to help in cases where the human rights of people with autism are being abused?

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