I along with my colleagues in the Regional Group of Independent TDs have re-introduced and will support and progress the Autism Bill through second stage this Wednesday morning in the Dáil.
Regional group members state that no strategy is in place since the European Commission approved the Charter of Rights for People with Autism in 1996. The Charter states that autistic people should have the same rights enjoyed by all EU citizens and these rights should be enforced by legislation. This has yet to happen in Ireland.
This Bill seeks to provide for the development and implementation of a cross Department Multi-Agency Strategy to provide and implement services for autistic people.
Understanding the autism spectrum is crucial to the success of this Bill and any strategy that follows. Service provision for autistic people should not be discretionary it should be a right protected in our legislation.
The Regional Group of TDs state that to do nothing will cost more in the long run. For example, inaccessibility to regular supports has contributed to the occurrence of regression in autistic children’s interpersonal and educational skills during the pandemic.
Financial pressure is acutely felt by families who assume full-time caring roles for their autistic children, reporting that existing social welfare payments are insufficient to cover the costs of therapy and additional support.
A recent study from the National University of Ireland, Galway found that the average annual cost per child for families amounted to more than €28,000 related to private services, lost income and informal care.
The Regional members look forward to working with all Oireachtas parties and stakeholders to ensure that this legislation is fit for purpose and successful. It will be a game changer for autistic people as it will enshrine their rights in law.
The Regional Group had the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill 2017 restored and intend to make numerous amendments to the Bill at Committee stage especially in relation to the terminology within the current draft of the Bill.
The Bill was introduced by Senator James Reilly, the former Minister for Health. It passed all stages in the Seanad but fell due to the dissolution of the Dáil in January 2020.