Labour demands greater investment in autism supports

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

The consistent lack of investment in autism services is eroding the chances of autistic people to thrive in our society, said Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. In June, Labour proposed a bill to put in place a coherent framework to address the unmet needs of people with autism in our communities.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“It was deeply frustrating to hear the battle that the Darmody family have faced in accessing supports for their children on Morning Ireland this morning. I want to comment Cara and her father Mark for advocating for change, but it’s simply not good enough that families are in a constant battle for fairness with the State.

“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. It is welcome that the Taoiseach is meeting families today, but what good is a meeting unless positive change is brought about? 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. Many children are still without an appropriate school place for September, many are travelling huge distances to access education, more have been forced to accept a school place that is inappropriate for their needs. Many, many more are waiting for assessments and basic interventions, which we know are key to giving autistic children a fair start.

“The Ombudsman for Children’s report published in June 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, like Malta, 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.

“Last month, 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. There is no time to wait.”

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