2023 11 21 Heather Lead Officer Inverclyde

[00:00:00] https://www.autisticradio.com/

We speak our words, we listen, we speak our words, we listen. We speak our words. We listen. We speak our words. We listen.

Jules Autistic Radio: And the lead officer from Inverclyde is Heather. Heather, hello today. Hello. Let me let me first ask you, what, what is the role of lead officer? How is that defined?

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: I work for Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership, HSCP. It’s not the only thing that I do, so a lot of other areas you’ll find have autism leads and that’s their job.

That’s what they do, that’s their full time post. I’m also the strategic lead for Learning Disability Services, a host of other things. And this role, I was asked to take on this particular role, along with the rest of the work that I’m doing. It doesn’t make it any less [00:01:00] important, but I think it gives you maybe an understanding of how our local authority has decided to implement the autism strategy.

There is, it didn’t come with a job description. It’s such. I would say that the lead officer post certainly from what I have been doing and what I’ve been involved in over the last two years has been to more of a facilitator role or a coordinating role around implementing the national and our local autism strategy.

During that. other agencies are at the table as well.

Jules Autistic Radio: It sounds to me as though what you’re saying is that the role of autism lead officer is an additional thing that people get handed to whether they like it or not.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: What I’m saying [00:02:00] is that’s how Inverclyde

have Approached the lead officer role. It wouldn’t be the same in other local authority areas. They approached me in my role. They knew that I was very interested, very committed, and it had some level of understanding, additional training and practice, in the past around working with the autistic community.

Mainly young people. So they gave it to someone who was not reluctant to take it on.

Jules Autistic Radio: Wow, wow, that’s so positive. So you’re, you’re, you’re a volunteer for this effectively. You know, you chose to say, okay, this is an additional part of my work. I want to get involved in this. Yes, 100%. Wow, that, that’s lovely.

That’s a really lovely thing to hear. My guess is that that’s not the same in every authority. And that a lot of the time the lead officer role is [00:03:00] something that is a bit of a poison chalice. Have I got the wrong impression?

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: That is not the case about all of the things that you’ve probably uncovered around the frustrations and difficulties.

Around bringing multiple agencies together to implement this strategy. And involving the autistic voice across all ages across the lifespan.

Jules Autistic Radio: So, in some ways, it’s a role where a person like yourself with enthusiasm can decide what the role is. That’s quite a big area of creative latitude.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: I think that’s very well put.

It’s, I mean, I suppose it’s a vibe, I always use the word vibe, excuse me, the dynamic of, I think, anybody in a strategic role. You know, to have those loose but very wide [00:04:00] parameters to be able to engage everybody and anybody that they can use in whatever method they can. And mainly yourself as a, it’s your dynamic that you’re trying to get other people’s hearts and minds on board.

It’s all about relationships.

Jules Autistic Radio: Hearts and minds on board.

Wow. So, in some ways, it sounds to me that if you are somebody who has an interest in autism and you have a role elsewhere, if you can gain the lead autism role for your area, it’s something you can actually do something with. Is that your experience? Yes,

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: I would say so in all of the other work that I do, around learning disability.

And we’ll probably come on to a project that we’re particularly passionate about. It’s a pilot project around working [00:05:00] with young autistic people who don’t have learning disability and wouldn’t necessarily get any services. Because of my role in learning disability and the redesign I knew who all the partners were, people were already at that table.

So I think they kind of used me in a way because of the networking and the relationships that I’d built up already around making changes in the community and within services. This was different because with disability it’s adults that we work with, but for autism it’s, you know, early years all the way through into older age.

And we very much silo work, as you will know, in Social Work Green Council. It’s by service area and this broke all of those silos and trying to build that kind of right across the whole lifespan, you know, from children’s services, adult services, older people’s services, through education [00:06:00] and health.

Jules Autistic Radio: I keep I keep coming across this word silos. It seems to be a buzzword that people in, in your profession use. I’ve heard the guy from the ABA organization talk about different silos in education. What, what does this word silos mean? Is it something about everything being streamed differently? A separation?

What does silos mean? Yeah,

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: so separation, it’s eh, it’s just prioritising your own area and from a strategic point of view, that’s, you know, this is not how we should be working. So trying to find partnership approaches and collaborations and learning the best and the worst from each area, the good, the bad and the ugly people tend to just, I’m alright Jack.

Jules Autistic Radio: Part of what you’re saying there, [00:07:00] part of what you’re saying there is the lead officer’s role is. Something that the lead officer can define themselves. But what you found it most, where you find it most important is to try and have some kind of coordination of different services, different ideas, different people, and get them to think overall in a strategic way, in a holistic way about autism.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: Yes, creatively, flexibly, responsively, just it can’t, we can’t work just within our own area, with our own ideas, etc. But it is more difficult, yeah, when you start moving across all the age groups, you know, services structured that way. You know, you’ll work with children. You’ll have your own definition of how, you know, your eligibility to, to access services.

There’ll be thresholds, etc. [00:08:00] Very, very rigid. There’s each service areas protecting their own service. Sometimes that’s down to governments. Sometimes it’s old, historic. This is the way we’ve always done things and, and so my job is in the name. Particularly over the last year has been about trying to break down those kind of barriers and have more of an open door, not a closed door approach and there is some movement on that which is just a joy to see for the impact that it’s having on, and I’ll say again because we’re particularly focused on our young adults young autistic adults.

I can hear

Jules Autistic Radio: some pride coming through in what you feel that you’re already achieving. I like that, there’s a positivity there. Tell me about what’s happening at the moment.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: Our main focus, and as I say, Heather, the other Heather, Heather Miller who [00:09:00] couldn’t do anything without her to say she’s my right hand woman is ridiculous because you know, that doesn’t describe her input and her commitment.

If you think my commitment’s there, this is somebody that will work 24 7 for autistic young people. At the moment our focus is on our, and our frustrations, if I can add that in as well, is around education. During COVID, when our services closed down we were able to become a response team and doing lots of different things.

So throughout COVID lots of teams and different workers or agencies were able to step out of the role that they were in and do something very, very different. And what we were 2021 particularly was this group of young people who hadn’t been at school for years and years, 14 to 25 age group. [00:10:00] We were discovering that these young people were.

Knocking the door of social work. The door was closed because they didn’t have a limb and disability. They were autistic and had very complex anxieties and stress and no positive destination. They’d been shut at home for years and years and years. We wanted to do something about that, Heather and I.

Jules Autistic Radio: I can hear, in what you’ve said, some, some pride and some enthusiasm coming through there, Heather. You’re not sounding like the the hard face of a bureaucracy to me. There’s a passion in there. Tell me about what you’re particularly working on at the moment.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: We’ve seen a gap around, Young autistic people, mainly young men, who have not been able to engage with education for a number of years, been at [00:11:00] home and I know this isn’t a great expression, but it kind of does describe these young people as the bedroom boys.

Bedroom boys? The bedroom boys. Okay. Richard coined that phrase. Richard and Judy, as I call them. Richard and Lindsay. Bedroom We’re, we’re doing bits of work with them, we’ve commissioned them and it’s such a joy. But anyway, I’ll leave that for you to decide if that’s appropriate or inappropriate.

But it is a group of young people stuck in their bedrooms gaming. Are

Jules Autistic Radio: you afraid, what, let me just interrupt you there. Are you afraid that if we say a phrase like the bedroom boys, that you’re going to get some kind of negative feedback because of that phrase? Is that what you’re worried about?

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: I don’t want to offend these young people.

It’s not, I don’t, and I know it sounds terrible, it’s not really for anyone else other than these young people themselves to be sort of offended, if you like or [00:12:00] feel that that’s inappropriate. I would use it if I had their permission to be using it all the time because it absolutely describes them.

In fact, it might be something we might ask some of our young people, how they would feel about that, but they are individuals in their own right and you don’t want to sort of, you know, describe a cohort of people.

Maurice ELAS: I would believe the site was one, although I wasn’t a video gamer. It’s just because I was failed by the…

education systems and social service backup around them. Worrying about upsetting them with a name seems less important than upsetting them and not being listened to, or with the fear that anyone’s going to be high handed in approach towards them. You know, I, I, The the continued letdown after I was a school leafer was the arrogant, arrogant we know best attitudes instead of listening [00:13:00] attitudes to how it has actually been for me.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: 100%.

Jules Autistic Radio: Yeah, I think I’d like to add to that and just say that

having a term that’s affectionate for a group of people is, is a positive. It means they’re being noticed. It means they’re being noticed as a group and their position is being noticed as a group. So, If a listener is out there, and they are a bedroom boy, somebody who has moved themselves away from education and, and now spending their times quite isolated I would encourage them to see it as a positive and realize that somebody like Heather is, is just trying to find a way of grouping you and then reaching out and trying to make things better.

That’s the way I would put it.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: I [00:14:00] appreciate that feedback particularly Morris. It’s, it’s, it is about, you know, you’re trying to do the right thing, you’re trying to help it’s more about what that, it’s more about how we promote and highlight where the difficulties are, also to the powers that be, so to speak.

It brings all sorts of connotations around it. We have had the serious case review, the Margaret Fleming case in Inverclyde, the rapport has just been published. We’re not clear if she was autistic, but she certainly had mild learning disability. And it’s just that picture, if you like, of a young person, as you’d said, they’re duals like, completely isolated, people not having eyes on them, their family sometimes, you know, stuck in that isolation with them as well.

The fact that it’s mostly boys that we work with young men, brings into all of the bits that we know about, about women, girls, masking and [00:15:00] all of the difficulties around that. And so yeah, we, we, we quite liked it and, you know, we do pontificate a lot with it. And shoot the breeze with it. Richard Simpson.

Find like minds is another thing about a lead. You need to find out where your buddies are. Where the people who are like you are. In the sense of… You know, I always call it a gang hut, right? People are in my gang hut. And that means that, you know, we’re of a like mind. We have the shared commitment and values and ethics.

We want to change and have a positive impact for these young people whose lives are desperately, desperately lonely and they’re not contributing to society at all. I don’t need to tell you, we’ll probably… To, to hear Morris’s story around like education and that, absolutely they know better. Attitude is just something that we come across, like, there are some people in the ganghut [00:16:00] in education, right?

So we do have people at the table who are like minded in almost every agency. You know, you have to get that, that kind of buy in or we’re never going to change anything. So the work is very, I’ve talked too much. I do apologize.

Jules Autistic Radio: What I’m hearing from you is the lead officer is an opportunity for somebody of the right mind to create a team around them. And when I say a team, I mean a disparate collection of people who are of like mind and are willing to make a change. So, in your case, the lead officer role seems to be something useful and vibrant.


Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: not a statutory role. I don’t want to get into legislation and all that. You know, it’s very much a discretionary, you know, and, and recommendations and so on, but it’s not in tablets of stone that, [00:17:00] that, you know, each local authority area has to have a lead. They must, you know, there’s responsibilities and mandatory responsibilities and so on to deliver.

And that was the thing about the national. the Scottish strategy, it didn’t have teeth. And so there is new legislation going through government at the moment, which, which hopefully will have teeth. So it very much will, will differ from local authority to local authority area.

Jules Autistic Radio: While it’s

Maurice ELAS: the, well, everyone’s notoriously using a thing about Creating new things.

What about

teeth towards overcoming and stopping when already existing things are actually working badly? School leavers are

frightened to engage because they might get high handedness either from mental health or from the benefits system. [00:18:00] Or adults, you know, just in a, in a, an adult’s service, that’s something that there’s been a

cynically unsympathetic towards the problem in it and or try to be laissez faire instead of solve it, you know. Where, where, where is the leverage to have the label that something’s not right sitting there until it’s put

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: right? I can give you an example of that, and you’re absolutely right. If I’ve picked you up right, Lauris, it’s about stop doing the things that’s not working.

Introduce new ways of working, or new processes, and get rid of the ones that are not working. So one great example of that I think is, in our work, have pushed and pushed our, if you like, our adult services, our adult community care services. When an autistic adult [00:19:00] approaches our services, service, looking for some support.

As soon as they mention or, or, or share that they are autistic, Heather and I were just talking about this this morning, without even going and having a look, see, you know, triaging it or, you know, triaging what the issues are, going and meeting the person, finding out if there’s more to it. And as we know, Somebody might present with one thing, but actually it’s such a zillion other things that are really impacting on them.

So, as soon as they see autism, they immediately reject the the referral. And because we have set up this pilot, they immediately get in touch with us to, to to accept a referral and process it..

Jules Autistic Radio: You were going to tell me a story about how you want things to change in your area. One example of

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: that is access for autistic people to community care services or social work support.

As they are requesting [00:20:00] it directly. So, historically. People wouldn’t be eligible for, for formal supports because they’re autistic, they don’t have a learning disability, they don’t have a severe and enduring mental health issue, which would mean that the door to mental health services would be open, or they don’t have an addiction, you know you know, the silo I was talking about earlier on, you know, the eligibility for each of these services, as soon as they heard autism, you know, that was, that was it.

They, they, they fell, fell through. Through a gap. So by being able to evidence the, if you like, the need for supports for this group of people in the pilot that we were running, we were able to demonstrate and as I say, evidence that there is a need for community care services to, to, to be more open to working with a script of people.

So instead of, [00:21:00] you know, sending people away and given perhaps Okay. Signposting to universal services or, you know, supports in the community the community care now are a little more open as baby steps to accepting referrals and understanding that autistic people have, have additional needs.

Many people have, have, and some people have additional needs that community care can actually support people through and a way that they didn’t before. The conversations. Two ways has been really valuable, excellent, and interesting for us. Okay. Clarifying some of the bits we know.

Jules Autistic Radio: What I also notice from what Maurice is saying, that this has been an important conversation.

You know, it’s been a good start to a conversation and I think that matters. I think there’s a, there’s a passion in there

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: and I think for me [00:22:00] and for us

Morrison, his, his input along yourself and it’s. You know, letting us know we’re kind of on the right path, if you like. We do listen to young people, and we do listen to people and we hear them. We don’t just listen. We hear everything that we do comes from what they are telling us is impacting on their lives.

So to hear more as, as, on, from him, you know, that, that, I mean, I, it’s inspirational because it’s, it’s, you realize that you’re, it sounds ridiculous, but you realize you’re doing the right thing. So yes, any conversation like this.

Jules Autistic Radio: Speaking to Morris today is an encouragement to you in your work. Yes,

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: yes. 100%.

100%. There’s an ordinary way in the background

Jules Autistic Radio: as well. Okay, well that’s really what the Autistic Radio Project has at its heart. Also

Maurice ELAS: an encouragement for our input [00:23:00] into the lead officers meetings, cope with grassroots value in giving you stuff for them.

Jules Autistic Radio: I’d say that lead officers meetings, if there’s one person, it’s you.

who’s a lead officer who goes to those meetings and takes any interest in what we produce for them, then that feels like enough of a positive for us. And there we have it, we’ve got Heather. We know at least when we produce things for the lead officers meetings that Heather’s listening.

Heather Inverclyde Lead Officer: I think there’s more than me.

You’re going to find it very interesting, I think, speaking to other people around their approach and other areas, other local authority areas.

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