Autism acts were passed in England four years ago and in the North two years ago. The Scottish and Welsh governments introduced national autism strategies in 2008 and 2011.
A HSE review of autism services carried out last year stated that “geographically, current services can vary from robust, comprehensive and integrated to isolated, patchy and ineffective”. It also found “differing models and approaches to provision of health services were evident across local health offices and service areas”.
According to West Cork TD Michael McCarthy, it is accepted internationally that one-in-100 children have some degree of autism and about 600 children per year are being born with the disorder in Ireland.
He believes a national strategy would ensure a unified standard of care.
The bill seeks to set up a data collection system to record the incidence of autism in Ireland, an autism awareness campaign, and the commissioning of research to identify individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the population and map services in accordance with these figures.
It also seeks the development of a pathway of care for adults with autism and support structures for families and carers across statutory and voluntary agencies.
“This is a cross-departmental approach which requires relevant ministers and agencies to plan and implement a strategy which would outline how needs of adults with autism can be met by services such as housing, employment, education and social inclusion.
“The primary driver, however, would be the Department of Health.”
The bill sets out that the autism strategy shall be published no less than two years after the passing of the act.