Autism Act (NI) 2011

Click here to access the Autism Act (NI) 2011

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The Autism Act (NI) 2011:

  • Is the result of a 5 year lobby partnership led by Autism NI working with the All Party Group on Autism at the NI Assembly and supported by the wider autism community across NI.
  • Surpasses the English Autism Act (2010) as the most comprehensive and progressive legislation for autism across the UK and Ireland.
  • Is equality and rights based, bringing entitlements for people with Autism into line with the rest of the disability sector.
  • Is the first legislation binding all government departments to plan, cooperate and implement an agreed strategy and services for individuals with a disability.
  • Sets in place a system of scrutiny and accountability that is overseen by the NI Assembly.

Actions established by the Act

The Autism Act (NI) 2011:

  • Changes the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) definition of disability so that for people with autism
  • Entitlement to services will no longer be measured solely by intellectual (IQ) or physical (“can he walk from A to B?”) ability.
  • Access to services and benefits will now also be on the basis of the level of social and communication impairment and function, previously DLA was disallowed because autism did not clearly fit within the protection and definition of the DDA, this is no longer the case
  • Places a duty on the Department of Health & Social Security (DHSSPS) to act as the lead government agency in producing, reviewing and implementing a cross department strategy for autism. Currently, cross department cooperation is only discretionary.
  • Places a duty on all government departments to agree a data collection system to calculate current and future need for services for people with autism and their families for future planning. Currently, data collection is largely an internal process that is service or department specific and not suitable of general planning.
  • Places a duty upon DHSSPS to clearly detail how the needs of families and carers is to be addressed. This is a clear directive towards family support service development
  • Places a duty upon government to implement an effective autism awareness campaign strategy, e.g. Information website, poster campaign, etc.

Impacts on your Family

The Autism Act (NI) 2011:

  • Will, by implementing changes to DDA, impact with the removal of the IQ score of 70+ as a barrier to accessing services.
  • Will, by implementing changes to DDA, clarify the legal basis for discrimina­tion cases regarding autism in the areas of, for example, employment and benefit entitlement.
  • Will, by implementing changes to DDA and creating an autism awareness campaign, improve public knowledge and understanding of the condition, potentially reducing isolation felt by families living with autism in their local communities.
  • Will bring a legal basis for the recognition of autism and an end to the denial of the condition by certain professions.
  • Requires all government departments to plan together for autism for the first time ever. The government strategy will mean that some government departments will be contributing to autism services for the first time.

The Autism Act (NI) 2011 is a tool to be used by the autism community and government departments to prioritise, access services and improve planning in an era of economic restraint. So copy this information liberally. The Act gives a legal basis for recognition and understanding of autism as a full intellectual range social and communication disability. This legal standing is more permanent than any policy, regulation or departmental strategy which can be overturned as government Ministers move on. The Act is a stepping stone to achieving the equality, recognition and services so long denied to individuals with autism as a result of the well documented legacy of neglect and underinvestment. So the work continues!