SCOTTISH Autism has said it "deeply regrets" Moray Council’s decision to take the future provision of autism services in-house and accused it of having little regard for the thought of service users.
The move follows a breakdown in talks over the service.
The Edinburgh-based charity had asked the council to help pay its staff the proposed Scottish Living Wage of £8.75 per hour.
A spokesperson for Moray Council confirmed: "Following further discussion with Scottish Autism, we were unable to mutually agree the funding arrangement for the service. It has been agreed that the best way forward is for Moray Council to take over the management of this service.
"We will endeavour to work in a constructive manner with Scottish Autism to ensure a smooth and successful transfer, and our central focus will be the young people and their families."
A spokesperson from Scottish Autism said: "This is a decision based entirely on cost with little thought to the welfare of the service users concerned. The decision not to meet the cost of employers’ national insurance and pension contributions as part of the commitment made by Scottish Government and COSLA to pay the Living Wage to all care workers is clearly in breach of guidance given by the Scottish Government, COSLA, CCPS and Scottish Care. Moray Council has disputed that it is disregarding the guidance, although Scottish Autism has provided strong evidence to the contrary.
"This is a prime example of a worrying trend in Scotland which is the erosion of specialisms. The local authority can procure cheaper "generic" services rather than the specialisms required. This simply would not happen if this was a medical condition requiring expert support.
"The Council makes reference to "running similar services." It was an inability to address the needs of such complex individuals six years ago that led to the engagement of Scottish Autism in the first place.
"Scottish Autism does not believe that Moray Council has ever taken this issue seriously, apparently only examining the cost implications after eight months of delay, when the issue became public. The position being taken by the Council is a post facto rationalisation of a decision based purely on cost. Scottish Autism considers that it is likely that the quality of life for the service users concerned will be adversely affected.
"Regarding the transition, Scottish Autism’s priority remains the welfare of the autistic individuals and supporting their families and consequently will cooperate fully in effecting as smooth a transition as possible."
Moray MP Douglas Ross has expressed his concern at the news.
He said: "After a series of meetings I was hopeful that Moray Council and Scottish Autism could have resolved their issues to ensure this much valued and needed support in Moray could be maintained. It’s deeply worrying that Scottish Autism tried to engage with officials of Moray Council for several months and received inadequate responses.
"I have contacted the council urging them to look at ways of working with Scottish Autism in the future and seeking assurances about the commitment Moray Council have given with regards to supporting people with autism in Moray going forward.
"Ultimately, this decision is a bitter blow to the many people in Moray who contacted me about the threat of Scottish Autism removing their service from the area and I am keen to work with Scottish Autism staff locally in Moray and individuals and families affected by this decision as today I feel they have been badly let down by Moray Council."