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NI Assembly passes critical Autism legislation

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Bill sponsor Pam Cameron MLA, Hannah Armstrong (8) and Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd at Stormont celebrating the passing of the Autism Amendment Bill on Monday.

Bill sponsor Pam Cameron MLA, Hannah Armstrong (8) and Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd at Stormont celebrating the passing of the Autism Amendment Bill on Monday.

Bill sponsor Pam Cameron MLA, Hannah Armstrong (8) and Autism NI CEO Kerry Boyd at Stormont celebrating the passing of the Autism Amendment Bill on Monday.

The Autism Amendment Bill was passed at the NI Assembly on Monday night with unanimous cross-party support.

The new Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Pam Cameron MLA, will be the most comprehensive piece of single disability legislation within the United Kingdom.

Some of the changes that the Bill will introduce will be the creation of an autism information service and a cross departmental autism training strategy.

There will also be a requirement for the Department of Health to make provision for a regionally consistent adult autism service and early intervention service throughout Northern Ireland.

Pam Cameron MLA commented after the evening debate, “As Chair of the All Party Group on Autism, I know that autistic children and adults are currently facing huge challenges accessing pre and post diagnosis support, with provision varying drastically within each Health Trust area.

"The new legislation will end this postcode lottery by strengthening the current Autism Act (NI) and introducing an independent scrutiny mechanism to drive forward regionally consistent autism services.

"I carefully considered the views of autistic adults, families and the wider autism community when developing this new legislation which I am confident will deliver better outcomes for everyone.”

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CEO of Northern Ireland’s main autism charity, Autism NI, Kerry Boyd said she is “delighted” after years spent lobbying for better services.

"Autism NI has worked extremely hard to ensure that the content of the Bill reflected the needs of our autism community here,” she added.

"The last few months have been very stressful as we were unsure whether there was enough time left within this current mandate for the Bill to be passed, so I am very relieved and grateful for tonight’s victory.

"It is time for person-centred autism support services to be delivered, which are easily accessible from childhood right through to adulthood.”

Shelley Armstrong, parent to seven-year-old Hannah Armstrong described autistic people as a “vibrant part of society” who deserve to have the same rights, support services and opportunities as every other person in Northern Ireland.

"I am glad that this Bill will finally address the many issues that so many of our autism community face on a daily basis. As a mother of autistic children, I am hopeful that this will be the start of ‘real’ change through better support services and opportunities for them,” Ms Armstrong concluded.


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