An Autism Innovation Strategy for Ireland
Drafting and passing an Autism Empowerment Strategy into law is AsIAm’s foremost campaign.
Whilst many laws have sought to improve autistic people’s lives in recent years, there is no statutory instrument which specifically focuses on autism.
A robust Empowerment Strategy would include adjusted and enhanced access to public services, nationwide training for families and other persons who work with autistic people and crucially, empowering autistic individuals by providing full participation in society.
All of our work ties into our overall push to implement an Autism Strategy that seeks to meaningfully include and consult with the autism community across Ireland.
We successfully lobbied several political parties to include a manifesto pledge to pass an Autism Strategy into law during the last general election. AsIAm will continue to engage with members of the Government and Opposition to ensure autism is prioritised on the 32nd Dáil’s agenda.
You can find out more about AsIAm’s vision for an Autism Innovation Strategy here.
AsIAm aspires for an Ireland where all children of the nation are treasured equally. To that end, an inclusive and supportive education system that meets autistic people’s needs is essential.
Our chief campaign here is to fully commence the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004. Although many important supports have been outlined in the Act, few of those have been delivered in practice.
AsIAm has been pushing the case for the Act’s full implementation hard for the past two years to lawmakers and partners in both the Oireachtas and Department of Education. We engaged with professionals, families and autistic pupils to inform a report on the political, legal and international arguments for the Act’s updating and full commencement, which we published in May.
Alongside our work to support autistic third-level students, through our Autism-Friendly HEI Initiative and our Autism-Friendly Universities Programme, AsIAm also advocates for making third-level education more accessible to autistic students. In July, AsIAm sent a Submission to the Public Consultation National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education. Our submission called on autistic students to be included as an under-represented group, increased consistency and continuity in accessing Disability Services and Supports, and increased resources into both providing remote learning supports, and increased accessibility of college supports
As the situation around COVD-19 unfolds, AsIAm has lobbied the Department of Education to prioritise autistic pupils’ supports. Together, with our fellow advocates, we have successfully widened the criteria for July Provision, highlighted the need to put in place detailed supports for autistic pupils’ return to school, and we are working to place families and pupils at the heart of the decision-making process ahead.
Employment and Social Protection
To have Remote Work Strategy realised, including the right to request remote working by end of 2021.
Increased funding for training and supported employment programmes for those transitioning into work and college, including career coaching, and to raise awareness among employers and recruiters in Budget 2022.
Quota of autistic people in public sector employment to be 2% by 2022. With 1 in 65 people in Ireland being autistic, we see this quota as essential to increase and maintain the number of autistic people in Ireland’s workforce.
Justice and Equality
Access to justice is crucial for all citizens living in any free and equitable society. Yet for many autistic people, this is so often out of reach in many aspects of their daily lives.
Whilst autism has become more visible over the last number of years, there is still a great deal of uncertainty over what autism looks like for many public sector professionals, especially for those working in the criminal justice system.
Organisations such as an Garda Síochána, Irish Prison Service, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the National Disability Authority are key players in this area. AsIAm works with all to develop new and improved ways of ensuring autistic people feel safe when engaging with justice and policing professionals.
Some of our key campaigns here include:
- Running a specialised module on autism awareness for all Garda recruits during their first year of training.
- Working with the Gardaí’s Human Rights Section to develop additional training for specific circumstances such as engaging with autistic people who wish to report a crime and interviewing witnesses on the autism spectrum.
- Accrediting select prisons and penal centres across the country to ensure their staff are autism aware and alert to the needs of autistic inmates and visitors.
AsIAm are also members of the Disability Participation and Consultation Network, and are actively involved in the Shadow Reporting process for Ireland’s first State Report on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.