Autism reviewer must be appointed: Erskine

Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA Deborah Erskine has said that services for people with autism in Northern Ireland should not be delayed because of £40,000.

By Deborah Erskine MLA

Fermanagh & South Tyrone

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The DUP MLA was speaking after proposing a motion in the Assembly on Tuesday which highlighted the delay in appointing an autism reviewer – a key part of the Autism (Amendment) Act 2002.

Mrs Erskine is Vice-Chair of the Assembly All-Party Group on Autism and she said,

“The Autism Act passed by the Assembly near the end of the last term is legislation of which Northern Ireland should be proud. It is the most comprehensive piece of disability legislation in any part of the United Kingdom. It provides the basis for a robust autism strategy that would provide lifelong services for autistic people.

Central to that legislation that was passed with full cross-party support in the Assembly is the role of the autism reviewer. Whilst it would be a part-time role of around 10 days per month, the reviewer would monitor the implementation of the autism strategy and ensure that continually review the adequacy and effectiveness of law, practice and services for people with autism, their families and carers.

No progress has been made on the appointment of this key position with the Minister stating that he is deferring a decision on the reviewer until he “considers health funding pressures in the round”.

There is no-one who would dispute the pressures facing our Health Service, and all Ministers have been faced with inadequate budgets. However, the autism reviewer would not only make a significant difference to the services for people with autism but could actually help drive improvements and efficiencies that would see money spent more effectively.

The autism reviewer was the only area of the Autism Act that had a cost associated with it and it amounts to less than £40,000 from a budget of £7.76 billion. People with autism, their families and carers should not face further delay and frustration because it has been deemed it impossible to reallocate 0.0005% of the Department’s budget.”

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