Sinn Féin welcomes ground breaking Autism Act
Sinn Féin Health Committee Chair, Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has welcomed news, that the Autism Act (NI) has become fully operational as of August 9th 2011 following the passing of the bill three months ago.
Ms. Gildernew said:
"Autism is a social and communication disability, not a learning, mental or physical disability. We as a Party of government have a responsibility to ensure that everyone who lives with Autism is protected and supported with legislation that is legally binding.
"It is not enough to just raise awareness of the issues associated with Autism alone. We must strive to deliver for those who have Autism, the families and those who would care for children with Autism. It is for this reason that Martin McGuinness, Catriona Ruane and now John O'Dowd as Education Ministers support creating facilities for those with Autism.
"This act now means that a legal status applies to the recognition and understanding of Autism as a full intellectual range, social and communication disability. This legislative framework is crucial in achieving equality and services for individuals with Autism. The act is equality and rights based, bringing entitlements for people with autism into line with the rest of the disability sector. For example DLA was previously disallowed because Autism did not clearly fit within the protection and definition of the disability discrimination act, this now is no longer the case.
"The act places a duty on the Department of Health & Social Services to act as the lead government agency in producing, reviewing and implementing a cross departmental strategy for Autism. The DHSSSPS will also be responsible for the needs and requirements of families and carers.
"The Autism NI Charity has been instrumental in championing the need for an autism act in the North of Ireland and have worked relentlessly for individuals, carers and families. Their work however continues in ensuring that the "spirit of the bill" is carried through and Sinn Féin will be supportive of them in their work.
"It is vital that families become aware of their new rights under this law and I would advise those interested to access the new Autism Act on www.legislation.gov.uk/nia/2011/27/contents/enacted or contact AutismNI's helpline on 08450559010/02890401729 or www.autismni.org