SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Dominic Bradley has welcomed the launch of the Autism Strategy at the Assembly by Health Minister Edwin Poots.
Mr Bradley, who leads the All Party Group on Autism at the Assembly, said: “Today’s publication of the Autism Strategy is a very welcome next step and is the outworking of the Autism Act 2011 which I brought through the Assembly. The Autism Act recognised Autism as a cross departmental issue and the Strategy and Action Plan now bring that a step forward with the establishment of a new Autism Strategy Regional Multi-Agency Implementation Team.
“The appointment of an effective Regional Coordinator with authority to bring this cross department strategy forward is critical, as is the allocation and prioritisation of proper funding levels to address unmet need from a rapidly increasing disability.
“I Chair the Assembly’s All Party Group on Autism and we are delighted that the Minister has publicly launched the Autism Strategy which is a requirement of the Autism Act (NI) 2011.
“The real challenges now lie ahead, as these words are turned into real and meaningful action for families living with Autism across Northern Ireland. This strategy presents all departments within the Assembly with a huge opportunity to work together, to plan together and to pioneer innovative services.
“The Autism Strategy will ensure that all Government Departments will be encouraged to work together to improve support for those living with Autism. Departmental training in Autism Awareness will also be compulsory. The strategy also requires that the statementing process aims to be within 13 weeks of referral. The overarching aim of the strategy is to provide life-long support for everyone affected by Autism in Northern Ireland.
“This is a very welcome first step, however much work lies ahead as we work to improve the lives of those who live with Autism.”