Ireland’s national autism charity are proposing ways the Government can achieve true inclusivity and equality for autistic people across Ireland
[July 29th 2021]: As the country steadily exits the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to invest in supports for our most vulnerable citizens to help them with the transition back to normality. Autistic people and their families right across Ireland have been disproportionately impacted by the disruptions caused by the pandemic over the past seventeen months. In pre-pandemic times, there was a range of inequalities for autistic people and, in many respects, the challenges encountered by the wider society in the last year and a half are barriers that have always faced the one in sixty-five people in Ireland on the autism spectrum. From insufficient and inappropriate school places to chronic unemployment and a lack of social opportunities, autistic people have been locked out of their communities for far too long and AsIAm believe this is the right time to make a change.
AsIAm are putting a range of proposals to government in this submission, the proposals are centered around the fundamental need to unlock the potential of autistic people as we begin our recovery from the pandemic. The 2022 Budget must acknowledge the Autism Innovation Strategy’s announcement earlier this year presents an unprecedented opportunity to initiate a full life support system for the autism community from birth though to adulthood, supporting carers and families as well as autistic people.
Key ways which AsIAm believes the Government can achieve this drive for truly inclusive and equitable access to services include:
• Invest in the Autism Innovation Strategy’s creation and implementation, with a view to accelerate its development and rollout over the next twelve months.
• Invest €2.8 million to hire 100 additional caseworkers to support Early Intervention and School Age Teams for autistic children’s referrals around the country.
• Invest €14.5 million to reduce class sizes by one pupil, with a view to incrementally reducing their size in line with the European average of twenty pupils to one teacher over the next five years.
• Introduce a Cost of Disability payment, closely linked to the Disability Allowance payment, adjusted for contemporary rates of inflation.
• Provide an additional €3.4 million for the hiring of 126 job coaches within regional Intreo Offices, trained in best practices for engaging with and supporting both autistic jobseekers and jobseekers with other disabilities.
• Invest €700,000 into the Autism Community Fund’s development and delivery from the Dormant Accounts Fund to support community initiatives to address the isolation epidemic facing autistic people across the country.
Speaking at the launch, AsIAm’s Chief Executive Officer Adam Harris said: “The last year and half have presented extremely difficult challenges for Ireland’s autism community. School closures, the diversion of vital support services and the loss of structure and routine have only served to deepen the crises experienced by many autistic people and their families as a result of many years of underinvestment and non-existent support structures.
“Budget 2022 must not only close the gaps which have emerged during the pandemic, but put in place real long-standing autism support structures that will ensure every autistic person can access the right support at the right time. This is a major opportunity to fund a more inclusive, accepting new normal to the benefit of all in society and that is what AsIAm is urging the Government to do.”
For further information please contact:
Nicola Cooke 087 780 6125
Gillian Chapman 086 311 8955
To view AsIAm’s proposals in full, see below or download our submission here.