Broken Promises for autistic people

The National Autistic Society NI and Autism NI, two of the most influential autism charities in Northern Ireland, have united to challenge the Northern Ireland government on what they see as broken promises to autistic people and their families.

In 2011, the Autism Act and resulting Strategy and Action Plan increased the hopes of autistic people and their families for a better future for them and their loved ones.  However the reality is that their life is getting more, rather than less, difficult for them and services are failing to deliver. Our research found that:

  • only 8% of those in our survey felt that services for autistic children had improved in the last three years
  • a mere 4% felt services for adults had improved in the last three years
  • 75% felt services for children had got worse or stayed the same
  • 56% of adults felt that services had got worse or stayed the same.

Shirelle Stewart, Director of the National Autistic Society Northern Ireland, said,

“What we must remember today is that behind these statistics are real children, adults and families who are struggling to get the help and support that they desperately need. Autism services have and continue to be the Cinderella services in Northern Ireland. These statistics tell the story of Donna and her family who are struggling to get overnight respite for their son Micah who has autism, a severe learning disability and who requires 1-1 support at all times, their family are reaching breaking point. Claire is a 43 year old adult with autism and a law degree but who only received a diagnosis late in life and has struggled to get a job, and sometimes to cope with daily life. This report is about real people and real lives who have had their hopes dashed because of broken promises.”

The two charities are united in their determination to resolve what they see as broken promises to the autistic community in Northern Ireland. They are asking government to act now and fulfil its promises by fully funding the autism strategy and action plan and involving the voluntary sector, autistic people, their families and carers in its monitoring and implementation.

Dr Arlene Cassidy, MBE and CEO of Autism NI, said,

“Autism NI, as co-author (alongside the All Party Group on Autism) of the Autism Act (NI) 2011, is astounded at the inefficiency, lack of leadership, ownership and accountability surrounding the implementation process led by the DHSSPS. It has left the autism community out in the cold and totally alienated from what should have been a very positive, innovative and engaging implementation of rights and equality based disability legislation. The Broken Promises report launched with The National Autistic Society NI today provides evidence of that failure, bringing a huge injustice out into the light. In addition, it calls upon the Northern Ireland Executive to fulfil the obligations it unanimously voted for in 2011 and to fully live up to the spirit and promise of the Autism Act (NI) 2011".

Read the Broken Promises report.