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'Door open' to Autism Bill in Wales, Government says

By James Williams
BBC Wales political correspondent

image captionMinister Rebecca Evans said the government does not see the need for an Autism Bill at the moment

The "door is very much open" for the introduction of a law to guarantee the rights of autistic people in Wales, the Welsh Government has said.

But Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said it was important to first give other policies the "chance to bed in and have an impact".

Campaigners and charities have called on the government to introduce an Autism Bill in the assembly.

Similar legislation has been passed in England and Northern Ireland.

With the exception of Labour, every major party included a commitment to introduce such a law in their manifesto for May's assembly election.

Speaking to Sunday Politics, Social Services and Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans, said: "We are keeping an open mind as to whether there's a need for a specific piece of legislation for autism in future.

"But at the moment it's actually a really exciting time in terms of the services and support that we offer people with autism in Wales because we have the Social Service and Wellbeing Act, just six months old, and that's intended to transform the way that we deliver services and support for people who have care and support needs, whatever their condition might be."

'Really isolating'

She pointed to the government's integrated autism service, which she said would look at whether any "gaps" might require new legislation, and the "door is open to it".

However, she added: "We don't see the need to introduce a specific piece of legislation at this time."

Louise Quinn-Flipping, from Swansea, whose sons Mason, four, and Logan, six have autism, supports the proposal for an Autism Bill.

She said: "In the beginning it was really hard, you literally get a diagnosis and you get handed a book - "This is autism" - and sent on your way with nothing. You're on your own.

"It's really isolating and it was actually quite depressing. You see all the differences in your child and then you see other people's children and you think 'my children should be doing that' and 'my kid's not'.

"In Wales, at the moment, it's currently a postcode lottery really. It depends where you live as what services you can access and how good those services are."

image copyrightThinkstock

Fact file:

  • There are an estimated 34,000 children and adults in Wales with autism
  • The condition affects a wider community of around 136,000, including families and carers
  • It is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others
  • It is a spectrum condition - autism affects people in different ways

Source: National Autistic Society Cymru

Ms Quinn-Flipping was in the Senedd earlier this month to listen to a debate brought forward by the Welsh Conservatives calling on the government to introduce an Autism Bill.

However, the motion was defeated because Labour AMs and Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams voted against it.

BBC Wales understands Education Secretary Ms Williams is due to meet local autism campaigners to discuss the issue on Monday.

Wales was the first country in the world to introduce an autism strategy back in 2008.

Earlier this year, a new national autism service was launched in an attempt to improve the lives of autistic people in Wales.

But the National Autistic Society Cymru thinks an Autism Act is still needed.

Meleri Thomas, the charity's external affairs manager, said: "Ultimately we've had the strategy since 2008. People are still not getting the right services, they're not getting the right diagnosis, or a timely diagnosis, so I think there's only one way to go."

  • Sunday Politics Wales is on BBC One Wales on Sunday 30 October at 11:00 GMT

Related Topics

  • Rebecca Evans
  • Autism
  • Welsh government

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