2nd April AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity, has welcomed the announcement by Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte TD, that she will establish a working group to lead the drafting and implementation of an Autism Innovation Strategy in Ireland. The Minister made the announcement at AsIAm’s World Autism Day webinar.
In recent years, many countries have drafted Autism Strategies which aim to increase public understanding, improve access to appropriate training and involve the autism community in service development and policy in areas such as employment, education, housing, access to justice and healthcare. Since 2012 there has been two separate pieces of legislation put forward for such a Strategy in Ireland and the Dail passed a Sinn Fein Motion on the need for a strategy unanimously, on World Autism Day 2019. The issue was raised in the Seanad by Senator Michael Carrighy as recently as this week. AsIAm has been campaigning for many years on the issue and sought general election manifesto and programme for government commitments on the issue.
Responding to the announcement, AsIAm CEO Adam Harris said ” Since Minister Rabbitte, TD has come into office AsIAm has engaged a number of times with her on this issue and it is most welcome that the Minister has committed to developing a National Strategy which has been long sought for by, and promised to, the autism community. Ireland has been left behind in the area of autism policy and in many parts of the country vital supports in areas such education, healthcare continue to be either non existent or cracking at the seams.
“This announcement is critical at a time when autistic people and our families have been shook by the revelations of the RTE Investigates programme and our community has suffered greatly in the context of the loss of supports and routines arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Trust, confidence and wellbeing are at crisis point and directly involving autistic people and our families in creating a better Ireland for our community is a vital step towards a more open, transparent and inclusive approach to autism moving forward.”
The Autism Innovation Strategy will be a cross-departmental plan with a Working Group chaired by the Minister and with direct consultation and involvement of autistic people and their families in Ireland. This work will compliment the existing Autism Programme Board which is working to improve pathways for and awareness of autism within HSE services.
“Whilst today’s commitment is an important step, we will now need to see tangible progress in putting the Strategy in place. Any Strategy that is to succeed must have clear targets and goals, appropriate funding and must directly empower autistic people and reflect our priorities. AsIAm will continue to campaign to see this through.”