School closures, the diversion of vital support services, and the loss of routine have deepened the crises experienced by many autistic people as a result of under-investment and non-existent supports.
That’s according to Adam Harris, the chief executive of AsIAm, speaking as the national charity published its pre-budget submission.
AsIAm is calling for a range of funding measures to address a range of inequalities for autistic people, worsened by the pandemic.
“The last year and a half have presented extremely difficult challenges for Ireland’s autism community,” Mr Harris said.
“This is a major opportunity to fund a more inclusive, accepting new normal to the benefit of all in society and that is what AsIAm is urging the Government to do."
According to AsIAm, autistic people have been locked out of their communities for too long, due to insufficient and inappropriate school places, chronic unemployment, and a lack of social opportunities.
It has called on the Government to invest in the next budget in the creation and implementation of the Autism Innovation Strategy and to accelerate its development and rollout over the next year.
It has also called for:
- An investment of €2.8m to hire 100 additional caseworkers to support early intervention and school age teams for autistic children’s referrals around the country;
- A further €14.5m to reduce class sizes by one pupil, with a view to incrementally reducing their size in line with the European average of 20 pupils to one teacher over the next five years;
- The introduction of a cost disability payment to be closely linked to the disability allowance payment.
The charity has also called for an additional €3.4m for the hiring of 126 job coaches within Intreo Offices, trained in best practices for engaging with and supporting both autistic jobseekers and jobseekers with other disabilities.