Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion has said that a National Autism Empowerment Strategy must be made a priority for all those elected to the next Dail.
The Carlow/Kilkenny general election candidate said:
“The development of a national strategy must be made an absolute priority for all TDs and political parties entering the 33rd Dail. This past week has been challenging for autistic people. Serious issues have been highlighted in the media and a national conversation has started about what needs to urgently change for the autistic community.
“However, the issues affecting autistic children and adults and deep frustrations are long standing. They haven’t just cropped up this week. Families, children and adults have been battling for years for basic rights and entitlements. Children face lengthy waiting lists for assessments and struggle to locate appropriate school places. Autistic adults face huge gaps in the provision of crucial services, particularly for finding work, securing social welfare, and living independently. This is totally unacceptable and has got to change.
“Sinn Fein has been advocating for the autistic community for many years and will continue to do so in the next Dail. In April 2019 I along with my party colleagues introduced the motion calling for Autism Empowerment Strategy to Dail Eireann on World Autism Day. This was a considered piece of work done in conjunction with advocacy groups and members of the autistic community.
“The motion set out a clear framework towards finally delivering an Autism Empowerment Strategy for Ireland and for the setting up of an all-party Oireachtas committee which would be mandated with producing an Autism Empowerment Strategy within six months.
“Even though the motion was passed receiving strong cross party support at the time, the committee was never established. Quite simply, it was not a priority for the previous government.
“In Government Sinn Fein will introduce and Autism Empowerment Act. We will prioritise the establishment of the Oireachtas Committee on Autism. We will get to work immediately to develop a strategy underpinning it with corresponding legislation. All this must be done working along side the various advocacy groups, parents and autistic individuals directly. Their involvement is key.
“Only yesterday, a large public meeting was organised by 150 parents teachers in Firhouse Co. Dublin pleading for more supports for autistic children in their community. The State is failing these children and their families with children’s hours and days cut due to a lack of services and resources. Many children do not attend school at all as a result. This is a national scandal.
“The failure to make diagnoses in adequate time for school applications, the lack of autism spectrum classes and places available for autistic children is a denial of a child’s right to education. These factors have created a two-tier system within our education system.
“We need to find solutions to the barriers facing autistic children gaining places in schools and address the fundamental issues as to why schools are reluctant to open ASC classes. Our schools must be resourced adequately to provide equally for all children who attend – with or without additional needs. The development of an actionable strategy is crucial to this.”
Note to editor: Sinn Fein has signed the AsIAm General Election 2020 pledge.