Parents should not be in a constant battle with the State

29 June 2022
  • Labour Autism Bill seeks to address unmet needs of people with autism in our communities

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Government must take action on behalf of the children and families currently being failed by the State. Following a debate on Labour’s Autism Bill, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said without a coherent framework in place to address the unmet needs of people with autism in our communities, groups will remain in a constant battle for fairness with the State.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“This morning, Labour TDs met with dozens of teachers, parents, young people, and advocates from across the country to plan the next steps in our campaign for equality and decent services for people with autism. Their presence in the Dáil Gallery during the debate on Labour’s Autism Bill sent a strong message to Government TDs: We will not stop working together until real change happens.

“As it stands, Ireland has no coherent framework to address the unmet needs of people with autism in our communities. Labour’s Bill can change that, but only if Government steps up to the plate. We need a strategy for autism on a legislative footing, because right now, the Department’s only response to this issue is awe. These children need the law on their side to make meaningful change.

“The Government is letting young people with autism and their families down. The harsh reality young people with autism and their parents face is one of relentless pressure.

“The Dáil will enter recess in less than three weeks, yet many children are still without a school place for this September. This blatant disregard and disrespect for these children is truly unbelievable. How is it fair to them, to their parents or to the school communities? Many more have been forced to accept a school place that is inappropriate for their needs. Many more are waiting years for assessments and basic interventions. It’s simply not good enough.

“Over a year ago in April 2021 the Dáil debated, and accepted, Labour’s motion calling for a National Autism Empowerment Strategy. Since then the situation has not improved for children with autism.

“The Ombudsman for Children’s report is plain and direct. The current failures in the system amount to discrimination against children with special educational needs, especially those with autism. We know that other countries do so much better than us. They have proper workforce planning in place, they know the numbers of places required and they make it happen come what may. The reality is that we, as a State, are letting so many of our most vulnerable children down and we need to face up and get to grips with that.

“We believe from education, to health, to work, we need a national autism strategy that can knit all of these things together to help people get on and thrive. Labour’s clear message to Government is this: there is no time to wait. It’s clear that Minister Rabbitte understands the need and value of having this on a legislative footing. It’s time for the rest of government to do so too.”

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