Pressure grows on Welsh labour Government to improve lives of 136,000-strong autism community

Welsh Conservatives will today call on the Welsh Government to give more support to the estimated 34,000 people in Wales living with autism.

In a debate to be held in the Welsh Assembly’s Senedd Chamber, members will argue that ministers should bring forward specific autism legislation that already exists in England and Northern Ireland.

The Autism Act was passed by the UK Government in 2009 which is targeted at adults. The Act has already improved public services for many thousands of autistic people in England.

The proposed Autism (Wales) Bill will seek to ensure increased support for people of all ages, by addressing issues such as employment – currently, just one in 10 people with autism are in paid work.

If the Bill passes then it could also make improvements to educational outcomes, health and social services and access to housing. 

Currently these areas present significant challenges for people with autism, placing them at an unfair disadvantage to the rest of society, making it difficult for them to live independent lives. 

Mark Isherwood first called for the Bill to be introduced during an Individual Members Debate in 2015, but the then health minister Mark Drakeford AM was slow to act, and his successor Rebecca Evans AM has shown reluctance to such a legislation, suggesting that existing law already sets out adequate provision.

Leading the debate will be Mark Isherwood AM – he said:

“There are an estimated 34,000 autistic people in Wales, but the condition affects a community of around 136,000, if we include families and carers.

“Autism is neither mental health nor learning difficulty, but falls between stools. Because it lacks a statutory identity in Wales, people are often unable to access effective support.

“Without legislation, the Welsh Government’s autism strategy is a voluntary wish list. It is therefore vital that Wales’ autism community enjoys the same statutory support as their English and Northern Irish counterparts.

“I urge members of all parties to help Wales reassert itself as a vanguard of autism by voting to call on the Welsh Government to bring forward an Autism (Wales) Bill.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Health, Angela Burns AM, said:

“An Autism Act would play a pivotal role in ensuring people with this condition are confident that they will receive the support they need. 

“Autism is a lifelong condition yet many of the services are highly fragmented and only available at certain points along life’s journey. 

“We need to ensure that someone with autism can pass seamlessly through the support systems receiving the appropriate help along the way. 

"Too many feel there is a lack of necessary professional awareness of autism across Wales.

"By ensuring Councils and Health Boards are required to take necessary action to offer support; and by placing a focus on improving understanding of this condition, Wales can lead the way in providing effective, consistent services for those affected by autism."

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