Thursday, 29 April 2021
National Autism Empowerment Strategy: Motion [Private Members]
I thank the Ceann Comhairle. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. It is very timely because this is national autism awareness month. Autism and autistic citizens have been let down collectively by us here in this State. I support this motion. It is timely and follows on from the Bill which the Regional Group and I reintroduced or reinstated in the Dáil yesterday. This Bill, called the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill, was introduced by former Senator James Reilly in the term of the previous Dáil. It passed the Seanad and is now on the Order Paper for the Dáil.
The purpose of the Bill is to address the inconsistency which exists throughout the State in respect of both the availability and type of services which are accessible to children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. The Bill is to provide for the development and implementation of a cross-departmental multi-agency autism spectrum disorder strategy. Such a strategy will set out how the needs of persons with autism spectrum disorder are to be addressed throughout their lives. The Bill will also decide upon the content of the strategy, assign responsibility for its implementation, provide a transparent process for monitoring the implementation of the strategy, and provide guidance on the implementation of this strategy. The Bill will further provide for the collation of data on autism spectrum disorder and for the initiation of a public awareness campaign on autism spectrum disorder. What I have heard in this debate can all be covered by this Bill which can be enacted fairly quickly, can be taken on by Government and brought through the Houses. In the previous Dáil, it had the full support of every party and made its way through the Seanad. Amendments may need to be made to it and we can do that.
I am a public representative since 2004.
As I stated at the Joint Committee on Disability Matters and as Deputy Gino Kenny noted, there are some things one comes across in public life where one is not very proud of what is going on. I believe that citizens who have autism have been let down by the State and I am not proud of that. My cross-party plea is for empowerment by action, a phrase I heard earlier. The best action we can take is to implement the Autism Spectrum Disorder Bill without delay.