Three committees of Assembly Members have published reports looking in detail at the Autism (Wales) Bill and making recommendations for how it can be improved, should AMs vote in favour of the Bill following a debate in January.

The reports point out areas where there is compelling evidence to show that this new law is needed to improve the lives of autistic people and their families in Wales. They also reflect on some of the evidence they have received which suggests where the Bill could to improved or questions whether it necessary at all.

The Finance Committee report looks only at the financial implications of the Bill, exploring where there will be costs or savings should the Bill become law. The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee report looks at whether the legal aspects of the Bill and whether or not the powers that the law gives to the National Assembly and the Welsh Government are appropriate.

The most detailed inquiry was undertaken by the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, who were looking at the policy implications of the Bill. They took evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, including our charity, autistic people, support groups and health and social care professionals.

This Committee was split on whether legislation is the right vehicle to ensure improvements for autistic people, and it would be for the whole of the Assembly now to take a final decision. However the Committee concluded that: ‘we are…in agreement that there is a pressing need to improve support services for people with ASD and their families across Wales, and believe this must be addressed as a matter of priority.’

The Health Committees main recommendations included:

  • amending parts of the Social Services and Wellbeing Act to ensure that assessing and meeting the care and support needs specifically take into account the needs of autistic people (Recommendation 4).
  • introducing mandatory training for all school staff in awareness and understanding of autism during their initial teacher training and as [art of their continuous professional development (Recommendation 6).
  • urgent action is taken to address the clear need for employment support for autistic adults (Recommendation 3).
  • instructing Health Boards and Local Authorities to remove the barriers between the health, care and education sectors (Recommendation 5).

Read the full report  

Welcoming the reports, Meleri Thomas, The National Autistic Society Cymru’s External Affairs Manager, said:

‘After a period of thorough evidence-gathering by the Committees, it is abundantly clear that services and support for autistic people are not good enough and they continue to be badly let down. We agree with the Committee that action needs to be taken.

‘It’s welcome that, in recognition of this, no barriers have been put in the way of the Bill proceeding by any committee. Our charity believes that the only logical next step is for the National Assembly for Wales to vote for the Bill to progress to the next stage. This will allow further scrutiny and so strengthen the legislation and ensure it will be as effective as possible.

‘The consequences of this legislation being voted down are inconceivable. Good legislation, with clear and specific duties is the essential foundation for improving the support for the 34,000 autistic people in Wales, and for their families and carers.’

Assembly Members will now examine the evidence and recommendations provided by the Committees ahead of a debate on 16 January, after which they will vote on whether or not to allow the Bill to proceed to the next stage.

We have been calling for An Autism Act for Wales, as part of our Your Act campaign.