The National Assembly for Wales will today debate the general principles of the Autism (Wales) Bill, proposed by Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies AM, but Welsh Government opposition threatens to block it.
The purpose of the Bill – developed alongside the National Autistic Society – is to provide people with autism in Wales a statutory right to receive timely services that can meet their needs and work to improve understanding of the condition.
Mr Davies, who is leading the Bill’s passage through the Assembly, is aiming to bring forward specific autism legislation that already exists in England and Northern Ireland.
The Autism Act 2009 passed by the UK Government, targeted at adults, 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 health and social services, educational outcomes, access to housing employment, and employment – currently, just one in 10 people with autism are in paid work.
The bill has the support of Plaid Cymru, UKIP, and independents, meaning the Welsh Government and Labour backbenchers stand in the way of the Bill’s passage.
The Autism (Wales) Bill would seek to:
- Introduce a strategy for meeting the needs of children and adults in Wales with autistic spectrum disorder conditions
- Ensure a clear pathway to diagnosis of autism in local areas
- Ensure that local authorities and health boards understand and take necessary action so that children and adults with autism get the timely support they need
- Collect appropriate data so that local areas can plan accordingly
- Regularly review the strategy and guidance to ensure progress
Paul Davies, AM for Preseli Pembrokeshire, won the opportunity to introduce the bill to the Assembly’s proceedings after being drawn from a ballot of AMs from every party, and has spent the last few months facing scrutiny from Assembly committees.
The Welsh Conservative leader said:
“The cross party endorsements my bill has attracted strongly demonstrates the widespread support its reforms will have in the country at large.
“The Welsh Labour-led Government’s reluctance to adopt these significant and popular measures, that were formulated alongside experts and stakeholders, only serves to highlight their outdated attitudes and systems.
“The Welsh Conservatives want to lead the way on strengthening the rights of the autistic community in Wales, developing clear pathways to diagnosis, and helping staff supporting people with autism get the training they need.
“I urge the Labour-led Government to reconsider its position and allow its Members to support this vital piece of legislation.”