Welsh Government publishes new Autism Code

(Title Image: National Autistic Society Cymru)

Services for people with autism and their families have come under close scrutiny since the recent introduction of an Autism Bill. However, the Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), yesterday launched a new code and delivery plan (pdf).

“This code will set out how local authorities, health boards and their partners should have services available to meet the identified needs of autistic people and their families and carers. In November, I will issue a public consultation to gather views on where we need to focus the autism code.

 

“The code will have a significant influence on where and how local authorities and health boards prioritise resources and how they actually deliver autism services.”
– Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething

The Health Secretary believes the new statutory code will address many of the issues raised in the Autism Bill – namely diagnostic waiting times, service planning as well as engagement with autistic people and their families. He maintained that a Bill “wasn’t the right answer to improve services”.

“No one is held accountable”

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said that when complaints are made, nobody is held accountable – citing an email on behalf of a group of autistic people. A recent article for the IWA said a survey found that half of autistic adults cited a lack of professional understanding as a barrier to accessing support.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) spoke in support of the Autism Bill:

“Now, you, through the way that you deal with this issue, talk about diagnosis and talk about specific support services as the important things, but there is much more than that to this, and that’s why I think we need legislation.

 

“We need to provide greater safeguards for people with ASD against decisions that are made that don’t take into account neuro difference. “
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

Law, or no law?

The Health Secretary accepted debate over whether there needed to be a law or not, but he believed that the code – as well as the rollout of an integrated autism service – will see ASD needs being met effectively.

Through conversations Lee Water AM (Lab, Llanelli) had, many people believe the new integrated autism service – due to be in place by March 2019 – was encouraging. UKIP added that laws aren’t always a solution to a problem.

The AM who introduced the Autism Bill, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) provoked the Health Secretary:

“So, does the Cabinet Secretary agree with me and accept that the Welsh Government would not even be considering the introduction of a code if it wasn’t for the proposed Autism Bill?”
– Paul Davies AM

The Health Secretary rejected any suggestion the Welsh Government are only taking action because of the Bill. The code is already budgeted and would be hard to revoke, while a law would – in his eyes – be a poor use of resources and be too rigid.

That debate is set to continue.

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