Joint Committee on Autism Report cannot gather dust – action needed
Labour Senator and member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Autism Mark Wall said the publication of the Committee’s report must spur Government into action for young autistic people.
Senator Wall said:
“The publication of the Committee’s report is to be welcomed today but it cannot just gather dust on the Ministers’ shelves. Families are sick of being in constant battle with the State.
“We need to see implementation across the range of actions including financial supports, inclusion and consultation when designing services which affect people with autism and disabilities, as well as the enactment of an Autism Strategy to be revised every three years.
“Thus far, we have seen a lack of joined up thinking when it comes to providing services. Government must commit to a cross Department approach when designing and implementing services and legislation that affect autistic.
“Last month, we received a breakthrough for people awaiting assessment of needs for autism and disabilities when Minister Anne Rabbittee committed in response to a Labour motion that if the six planned regional assessment teams are not set up by 1st August to tackle the enormous assessment of needs waiting lists, she will bring Labour’s proposals for covering costs to the Budget.
“There are no shortage of solutions but what is lacking is political focus and will to secure the financial supports required to create an Ireland that works for young autistic people.
“As of March 2023, 10,696 children have been waiting for over 12 months for initial contact with a Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT), an increase of 836 since December, and 17,157 were waiting in total. The uncertainty and lack of support for these families is nothing short of a national disgrace.
“As it stands, Ireland has no coherent framework to address the unmet needs of autistic people in our communities. Labour has called for a National Autism Empowerment Strategy to be embedded in legislation to bring about positive change. Children and people with autism need the law on their side to make meaningful change.
“The harsh reality young autistic people 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 report today must push Government into action. 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.”