One of the strategies outlined in the Autism Act NI 2011 is to undertake an autism awareness campaign. It is crucial that the sources of information provided by public, private and statutory sectors regarding autism are relevant, true and most of all verifiable.
In the interest of that, we should be looking for 'true' and verifiable information from the very organisation that alleges to have 'spearheaded' the Autism Act, namely Autism NI. We should expect the information they provide on their website is accurate, balanced and fully accountable.
What I have detected from AutismNI's website is quite the opposite, illustrating a pattern of misleading and even downright false information.
In my blog entry last month here I raised the issue how Autism NI, an autism charity consisting of staff with no medical training or experience, felt qualified to publicly advocate potentially harmful mental health related treatment options both to Health Professionals and to the public, here. I await a response from Autism NI in this regard, but as I haven't received one yet in the three or so years since this blog has been in existence, I don't seriously expect one.
In their mental health 'factsheet' (link above) AutismNI allege that the DHSSPS, i.e. medical experts worked in tandem with the charity to produce the offending document. I quite doubt it, and I await sight of bona fide references of these medical experts.
More recently, a number of parents have brought my attention to yet another worrying falsehood emanating from the Autism NI website.
If one types 'AutismNI' into the google search engine, the following comes up: -
Autism NI is Northern Ireland’s main Autism charity. The organisation is evaluated by the Social Services Inspectorate (DHSS&PS) every three years and by DHSS&PS annually. The charity is further enhanced by its long history of evidence based (researched) practice which is undertaken for every project or service it delivers.
(you can go here to see for yourself and as for the reference to the charity's 'history of evidence based (researched) practice', well that deserves a blog entry or two, on it's own!)
Autism NI is not evaluated by the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) and could not have been because the SSI has not held that role for many years. After some digging I have been able to find out that the last performance audit carried out by the DHSS on the charity was over 3 years ago. What is the reason for AutismNI continuing to use the names of the DHSSPS and the SSI in such a way when it is not true?
(retrieved from Google - 14/5/2012
The kindest explanation is that it is simply an oversight. Yet AutismNI have 15 paid employees who are not exactly overwhelmed with organising services for children and adults with autism, or their families. The charity's 'calendar of events' is considerably reduced, and how 15 staff members even keep busy with such a restricted calendar is beyond me. With all that free time, surely one of those staff members was available to check the accuracy of information on their website before it was publicly viewed.
As we all know, the RQIA is Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care regulator. The RQIA took over the DHSSPS's responsibility of inspections of services in 2005. That was 7 years ago. Further, the RQIA has no record of inspecting or monitoring Autism NI at any time. 7 years is a long time to correct a text error.
Their website states: RQIA is responsible for registering, inspecting and encouraging improvement in a range of health and social care services delivered by statutory and independent providers, in accordance with The Health and Personal Social Services (Quality, Improvement and Regulation)(Northern Ireland) Order 2003 and its supporting regulations.
Which of Autism NI's services fall into any of the above categories?
As I indicated earlier in this post, one of the strategies outlined in the Autism Act NI 2011 is to undertake an autism awareness campaign. Autism NI lobbied for this Act and one of the largest tasks outlined in the Act is to develop autism awareness. What is the definition of 'awareness'?
If Autism NI or any other organisation posts lies or half-truths about autism, on their websites, who is charged with correcting those lies? What redress would a member of the public have if they followed incorrect, misleading or dangerous information? Who is ultimately responsible for providing accurate information about autism to the public and to the government and voluntary sectors?
Awareness about autism, like charity, should start at home don't you think? Autism NI please remove the offending text from your website and documents. It is patently unfair to mislead the public. From a Charities Commission point of view, I wonder if what you have done may even be illegal.