Here's how consultation from local government works. Something needs to be done, statutory guidance demands it and they don't want to totally screw it up or at least they want to blame someone else if it does. So consult the stakeholders.
But there's always a problem when it comes to the matter being about disabilities, particularly the non-physical kind- the primary stakeholders are disabled. Officials can't be certain we are reliable but nor can they blame us, so they end up putting these things off for as long as possible. It is 2012 and the world is about to end. The Autism Act became law in 2009. Statutory guidance telling local authorities and NHS Trusts in England what the law requires of them was issued in early 2010. Yes, it's taken this long. North Yorkshire where I live was the last county in the whole of England to have done absolutely nothing, nothing that the statutory guidance said they must do. Well seeing as we're all going to die anyway, they have now decided to do something. The county council, local NHS branches and the National Autistic Society have been running some consultations here and there. Two questions everyone had when they arrived at one of them last week was "Why was this not more widely advertised and why is it being held in the middle of nowhere?"
Technically, most of North Yorkshire is the middle of nowhere. Ripon is the country's oldest city(owing to the presence of a cathedral), but it's so small only Smurfs can live there- it makes Durham look like Mega City One. Harrogate is the UK internet porn capital according to research for the BBC documentary The Virtual Revolution- they are so bored and there is nothing to do in that town that it has the highest per capita web porn use. Grassington is full of elderly people who believe in conspiracy theories because the rest of the population living there are frankly bonkers. The Forbidden Corner is actually probably the most sensible and balanced place out here.
The meeting we went to was held in a cricket club. Obviously one of the people from the council there was a member and decided that if they are going to be abused and humiliated, it might as well be in a familiar place where they and only they as a member may purchase cheap drinks afterwards. Everyone would want to be their friend then. The only Autistics there were us, those of us who go to the support group every Thursday afternoon. The rest were parents, carers and charity workers. We were put into groups naturally depending on where we were sat and asked to write down things such as what was working well at the moment, what needed to change and other fluff. Our group ended up needing several sheets of paper as we kept running out. What all groups agreed was that any future meetings would need to be much better advertised(it seems that this was deliberate though as similar events in West Yorkshire attracted larger crowds than the venues could support, such was the strength of feeling about the lack of statutory Autism provision) and that decisions should be made with at least one Autistic involved.
The county council have decided there should be a focus group that meets regularly to review progress on services and suggest changes. This is where they want Autistic involvement and people kept repeatedly mentioning the focus group to me, like they were trying to drop a hint. Couldn't work out what it was.
At the support group today, I'll ask if there has been any developments.