Northern Ireland Assembly passes Autism Bill|
BELFAST, Northern Ireland: Dominic Bradley, SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh and sponsor of the Autism Bill which was passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly on March 15, 2011, has said that the Bill will help ensure that people with autism, their families and carers will have access to the services they require throughout the course of their lives.Proposing the Bill during the final stage debate of the Bill in the Assembly on March 15, Mr Bradley said: "The autism community should be justly proud that its campaign for justice has garnered support and understanding from a range of organisations (such as the NI Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission) aware that the impact of this Bill will be to plug a gap in our current outdated understanding of disability by providing clarity and a position for autism within the forthcoming work by OFMDFM regarding compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability.
'This Bill will provide the firm foundations for future development year on year. Families have learned not to expect overnight answers or solutions.
'But this Bill brings autism out from the cold.
· The autism awareness campaign will increase public knowledge, understanding and tolerance of this invisable disability.
· The cross department requirement to collect and share data will improve the potential accurately to project future need for planning of services and will help reduce duplication.
· The cross departmental strategy will minimise duplication at a time of fiscal restraint while improving effectiveness through shared resources.
· The cross departmental strategy will have to implement the new DDA recognition of autism which all departments will have to comply with anyway.
· The Bill, by implementing the new DDA recognition of autism, clarifies the definition of disability which is being used to make decisions of benefit entitlement e.g. DLA and ESA.
'No more will autism be assessed by the measurements of another disability.
· The Bill, by implementing the new DDA recognition of autism, removes the IQ barrier of a 70 score as a gateway to services. The bill removes discrimination for individuals with autism (over IQ70) and their limited access to services. At last, autism must be understood and addressed as a full intellectual range disability.
'For families and individuals with autism, this Bill brings the era of official denial to a close. There is an emotional, physical and mental cost being paid by families which is calculated, researched and forms the basis of the lobby for this Bill.
'By passing this Bill, we will shift that burden onto government. It is time for government to calculate, plan holistically and realistically for future need.
'The time for sticking plasters with all the fragmented planning and short term funding is over.
'The Assembly Research and Library Service document, "Improving services for people with ASD," predicted the need for this legislation.
As this remains the only truly independent document on the issue to date, I conclude with an excerpt from this document: "To circumvent this constraint ('silo mentality') legislation ... may be a more direct method of providing departmental buy-in for improving services for people with autism".'
(Source: Autism Northern Ireland, March 15, 2011)