Thursday, 16 November 2023
Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
220. To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the position regarding the implementation of the 109 recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Autism’s final report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50393/23]
As Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, I would like to commend the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Autism on its final report, published in June 2023, which contains detailed recommendations for action right across Government to better meet the needs of Autistic people and their families. This is a shared objective for me as Minister of State.
The recommendations contained in the Report address a broad range of issues, with many recommendations falling outside the direct remit of my Department. Within my own area of responsibility, the recommendations of the Report are being carefully considered in the context of development of a new national strategy on autism, the Autism Innovation Strategy, which was in development prior to the final Report of the Committee and which will respond to commitments in the Programme for Government for action on autism at a whole-of-Government level.
The Autism Innovation Strategy will identify ways to address the bespoke challenges and barriers faced by autistic people and provide the building blocks for a more autism-inclusive society. It will be cross-Government in nature and will take a holistic approach towards addressing these challenges. In doing so, it will seek to provide for better mainstream understanding and accommodation of the needs of autistic people.
Development of the strategy is currently at an advanced stage. This follows several months of engagements right across Government to agree a suite of clear, simple actions that can address gaps in existing supports and services for autistic people within an 18 month timeframe. This process has included careful consideration of the recommendations contained in the final report of the Joint Committee on Autism.
From the outset of the development process, I have been clear that I want the autistic community to be at the centre of the development and roll out of the Autism Innovation Strategy. An initial public consultation was held in April/May 2022 to capture the views and priorities of the autistic community. A report summarising the feedback received was published in April 2023. The feedback from the public consultation has been a central consideration in the development of the strategy to date.
The Autism Innovation Strategy Oversight and Advisory Group was also appointed in December 2022, following an application process. This group, which is majority neurodivergent, will play a key role in monitoring implementation of the strategy, and in providing constructive advice based on the lived experience and expertise of group members.
Once drafting of the strategy is complete, there will be a further public consultation prior to the formal adoption of the Autism Innovation Strategy. It is my intention that implementation of the strategy will begin in early 2024 and that is the clear focus of work for my officials at present.