Autism Action Plan Key To Delivering Better Services

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

An autism action plan, which is due to be published shortly, will deliver significant improvements in services to all those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said the action plan follows an independent review of ASD services which was chaired by Lord Maginnis.

Speaking following a debate on autism services in the Assembly, the Minister said: “The historic under funding of services for those affected by autism has meant that many people have experienced difficulties. That needs to end. Autism services need to improve to ensure an improved quality of life for individuals and their families.

“It is an indicator of the importance attached to autism services by all those involved – including me - that we have secured over ?2million for investment in autism services. Early intervention is vital and this new funding will help ensure that Trusts meet a target that by March 2010, no child should wait longer than 13 weeks for assessment following referral and a further 13 weeks for commencement of specialised treatment.”

Turning to calls in the Assembly for autism specific legislation, the Minister said he had put this question to an Independent Review of Autism Services.


The Minister said: “The Review concluded that they did not regard autism specific legislation as necessary, or appropriate at this stage. What’s more, an independent report carried out by Sir Jonathan Michael in England also looked at the need for legislation and came up with the same conclusion.

“However, no-one should doubt the urgency and importance attached to autism services and the actions I have taken. As well as announcing an Independent Review, I also published a draft strategic action plan for public consultation. The final plan will be published soon.

“We all have a shared goal of wishing to raise the profile of autism, and improve the services available, but we cannot wave a legislative wand, and create a situation where one medical diagnosis supersedes all others in terms of priority. To suggest otherwise flies in the face of everything we understand about equality.”

Promoting an understanding that individuals can be affected by autism in different ways, and to different extents was essential in order to ensure that people received the most appropriate help and support, the Minister continued: “The action plan will promote earlier identification and diagnosis. It will also ensure better coordination and collaboration with other Agencies and Departments providing services linked to people of all ages at all stages of their lives who are affected by ASD.

“It is World Autism Day on Thursday - a day which will help raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders. We need all the Autism Awareness Days we can get – we need to raise autism awareness every day. That is why the ASD Action Plan places such an emphasis on providing awareness training – and more specialist training, where appropriate.

“Only by close co-ordination and collaboration can we help to close all the gaps, and provide the full range of services needed.”