Cameron welcomes Autism Bill progress

South Antrim DUP representative and Chair of the all-party group on Autism, Pam Cameron MLA, has thanked MLAs for their support as her Autism Private Members' Bill passed it's 2nd reading stage in the Assembly this afternoon.

By Pam Cameron MLA

South Antrim

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Speaking following the debate Mrs Cameron said;

"I'm delighted that the Assembly has unanimously passed the second reading of my Autism Private Members' Bill.

There is a clear need for this legislation to bring about positive reform of Autism services in Northern Ireland and build upon the foundations of the original Autism Act 2011.

This Bill aims to address many of the issues our Autism community are facing, including waiting lists for diagnosis, timely access to services, lack of awareness and understanding of Autism, fair regional access to services, underinvestment and proper implementation of the Autism strategy. Through this legislation we also hope to be able to appoint an Autism Reviewer to scrutinise departments, commission independent research, review best practice and continue to advocate for the needs of autistic individuals to ensure we are drivers for change and improvement and do not continue to fail our autistic colleagues, friends and family.

I wish to put on record my gratitude to MLAs across all parties for their support on the principles of the Bill as it passes this important stage in the legislative process. The Autism (amendment) Bill will now move on to the committee stage in October to go through more detailed scrutiny and to deal with many of the specifics of the legislation.

I also want to thank Autism NI for their continued expert advice and support."

Note to editors;

Summary of the Autism (Amendment) Bill at second reading

1. Strengthening the Autism Strategy

• Must now set out how the needs of autistic adults will be met in terms of a) lifelong learning b) employment support c) recreation d) emotional and mental well-being and e) supported living.

• Must consider the best international practice on autism, take a multidisciplinary approach and ensure consistency of practice across all HSC Trusts.

• Must set out measurable targets to judge its success – and consult with autism charities and organisations on these targets

2. Increased Training

• Autism Training must be provided to NI Departments and public bodies

3. Creation of regional Early Intervention Service

• To provide timely support and intervention for families and to promote best outcomes for autistic children

• To ensure regional consistency of ethics and practice. Best practice models to be tapped into and delivered on a regional basis rather than per Trust area. Ends postcode lottery on services.

4. Creation of a central Autism Information Service

• Accessible in person & remotely, for autistic individuals, their families, carers and professionals seeking advice, information and signposting.

5. Prevalence Data

• DOH must now provide data on the prevalence of autism in adults as well as children

6. Annual Report to Assembly

• The Minister must now provide an annual report to the assembly, detailing how funding for autism in that financial year took account of the strategy, the needs of autistic people, their families and carers, the prevalence of autism in children and adults and the potential for collaboration with autism organisations/charities

7. Appoint an ‘Autism Reviewer’ who will:

• Issue an annual report to the DOH, to be presented to the Assembly

• Monitor the implementation and success of the Autism Strategy

• Assess efficacy of funding arrangements for autism

• Review the law and practice relating to autism

• Review the adequacy and effectiveness of services provided for autistic people, their families and carers

• Commission independent research

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