A lifeline service for the families of recently diagnosed autistic children looks set to close after the Scottish Government cut the programme’s funding. 

One MSP has warned that the decision not to support the scheme would lead to a “cliff edge” for people at a time when they needed help the most.

The National Post Diagnostic Support Service was launched in December 2020 to “support newly diagnosed people across Scotland to understand and embrace their identity as an autistic person.” 

Funded by the Scottish Government, the service was delivered in partnership with national charities Scottish Autism, National Autistic Society Scotland, Autism Initiatives Scotland and a number of local autistic groups. 

An evaluation published in 2022 was overwhelmingly positive, saying that those who had come into contact with the services provided “felt that their self-confidence and self-esteem had improved.”

Others reported a reduction in social isolation and anxiety, while some even said it reduced stress and led to an improved quality of life and an improvement in general health.

Scottish Autism’s specific role in the scheme was to deliver post-diagnostic support to parents and carers of autistic children and young people. 

The Get Set 4 Autism programme aimed to improve communication between parents and professionals and “ultimately equip parents with the information and practical skills they need to enable them to better support their child.”

During an exchange in Parliament at the end of June, Maree Todd, the Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport made clear the funding was coming to an end. 

Responding to a question from Labour’s Daniel Johnson, she said the funding for the pilot project was “provided for a three-year period, which came to an end in March.” 

Mr Johnson said that scrapping the funding "compounds people’s very real sense that a cliff edge is represented by a diagnosis of autism, in that people wait for years to get an assessment, yet nothing is there once they have that diagnosis."

Ms Todd told him that £1 million set aside for post-diagnostic support “will be directed at adults, who currently receive very little local funding.” 

The minister said “learning from pilot projects” could be delivered into wider services and support.

However, Scottish Autism CEO, Dorry McLaughlin said that in many local areas these services “simply do not exist.”

Dr McLaughlin said: "The announcement from the Scottish Government is very disappointing, we felt that we had demonstrated both the value and the necessity of the post-diagnostic service for children and families. 

"Our board had very generously agreed to fund the service until September 2023, while we awaited the Scottish Government's decision on whether or not to continue funding the service.”

In her parliamentary answer, Ms Todd said the government would continue to fund Scottish Autism’s advice line for families and autistic people looking for information, advice, and support.  

Dr McLaughin said that was welcome, however, she added that it was “not able to offer the same level of support as the post-diagnostic service, and would instead need to signpost to local services that in many areas simply do not exist."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are prioritising investment in a range of support available both pre and post-diagnosis. A National Post Diagnostic Support Service has been piloted and as a result of that our new £1m Autism Support Fund will soon be launched.”