In June 2016, the National Autistic Society and Autism NI Jointly published the Broken Promises report (the report can be found here : http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2016-06-01-broken-promises.aspx )
Before I get into the report, I’d like to flag this up. The Autism Act was passed in 2011 in Northern Ireland. This Act has done next to nothing in reality.
That’s not the most surprising part of this, however. The fact that it took two charities to investigate this, and publish a report, not the Health Service, not the government, two CHARITIES, had to go and do the job of the government. Let that sink in.
The report makes for grim reading. It lays out just how dire the situation is for Autistic People in Northern Ireland. The report made it very clear that the current system is failing us, and without root and branch reform, it will continue to fail the very people it is designed to support. Simply put, the current system is not fit for purpose.
Now, how did the government react to this report? In short, they didn’t. They received this report in June 2016, and did nothing with it. Absolutely nothing. The report seemingly went straight to the bottom of the inbox, and was kicked into the long grass. What a shambles.
Not a particular group, or individual is responsible for this. But I would like to ask a few questions to the following people;
The Health Minister, The Health Committee Chair, every member of the Health Committee, the Chair of the All Party Group on Autism, every member of the All-Party Group on Autism, and every single MLA at the time of this report.
Where were you? I know many, if not all of you, received this report, or were made aware of it, so you cannot pretend you didn’t know about it. Simply Diagnosing people doesn’t fix it. A little bit of money here and there doesn’t fix it.
The All-Party Group on Autism, a group set up specifically to help Autistic People, has never had a presentation given to them by an Autistic Person. Surely you realise just how absurd that is?
I’m sure every MLA has had constituents approach them because they have been unable to access support, or they have been left isolated because they have been failed by the system. And I’m sure you have all read the stories about people like me, raising awareness of the condition and fighting for more understanding and services.
We don’t want awareness. We want Action. From what I can see, not a single party has even acknowledged the existence of this report, let alone pledged to act upon it. This isn’t a new problem. It has been about for years.
This is a challenge to every politician in Northern Ireland, to every prospective MLA, and our future leaders.
You have within your hands, the destiny of thousands of Autistic People, just like me. You hold in your hands the keys to change the current, broken, unfit for purpose system. You can make a huge difference for thousands of people, provide them with the support they have never had. Involve Autistic People in the process, we know what will help us best, we know exactly how the system has failed, and we know exactly how it needs to be fixed. By doing this, you can ease the stress on thousands of families, families that have been left abandoned and without support for far too long. You have the power to change all that. Please, please, use that power, and make the change.