The art of consultation – a first for Warwickshire

autism consultation imageWarwickshire County Council (WCC) is launching a major public consultation to help find the best ways to help children and adults with autism, and their families.

The aim is to get as many people as possible fully involved in the in-depth consultation which will inform and shape a new three-year All Ages Autism Strategy for the county.

1 in 100 people – children and adults – live with autism in the UK and there could be many more who have not been diagnosed.

The All Ages Autism Strategy consultation, which runs from 4th March to 31st  May, is aimed at young people and adults living with autism (whether diagnosed or not), carers, service providers and professionals. The county council wants to find out what really matters to people and what kind of support services would make a real difference to their lives.

A variety of consultation tools will be used to encourage people to contribute their views and aspirations. These include an innovative ‘creative consultation’ that is unique and a first for Warwickshire.

Professional artist Janetka Platun has been commissioned to work with children on the autistic spectrum in non-mainstream schools and colleges, and to visit parent and carer networks and community hubs across the county. Janetka has a strong background in successfully working with children and young people living with autism.

The county council’s Customer Engagement team hopes art will enable and support young people who take part in the creative consultation to share their opinions.

Rachel Flowers, Customer Engagement Officer, said: “Social skills and social interactions are often a barrier for people living with autism. For those that find verbal or written communication are barriers to expressing their views, then art can open up a non-language based way to enable that expression to happen.”

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care said: “We are fully committed to finding the best ways to work with people with autism. Our consultation is key to this and I am excited that we have gone about it in such a creative and innovative manner.”

Two online All Ages Autism Strategy consultation questionnaires – one for young people aged 16 and under, and the second for everyone else – will help test opinions and gather important feedback. The questionnaires will be available to complete online at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/autism from Monday 4th March.

The results will be used to develop a strategy that puts people, rather than processes, first and channels available resources where they are most needed.

The consultation results will also be used to create a Warwickshire definition of autism.

Amanda Burn, Service Re-design Officer for Learning Disabilities, who is leading the All Ages Autism Strategy consultation, said: “Though there are some shared characteristics of the lifelong disability, it is a spectrum condition. Being clear about what we mean by autism is an important first step in developing the new Warwickshire strategy.”