Campaign History

May 2013

The CNAP Policy Summit (DHSSPSNI and Autism NI) in Belfast on 2nd May 2013 brought all 11 NI Executive Departments together for the first time to debate the implementation of the cross departmental NI Autism Strategy using examples from CNAP national governments to inform that discussion. For more information on the CNAP Policy Summit, please click here

November 2012

CNAP Policy Summit was held with Welsh Government, Autism Cymru and Autism Europe at EU Parliament in Brussels.

April 2012

Autism NI's CEO De Arlene Cassidy appointed to Chair the NI Autism Research Advisory Committee

February 2012

CNAP Policy Summit was held by Scottish Executive and Scottish Autism in Edinburgh.


The Autism Bill (NI)

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The Autism Bill (NI) received its First Reading in the Northern Ireland Assembly on the 8th November 2010. This marked the start of the process of getting the Bill through the Assembly. The Second Reading took place on the 7th December.  This debate marked the positions of each of the Political Parties on the Bill. Only UUP had concerns with the Bill. Further Information

The Committee Stage quickly followed commencing on the 9th December.  The Committee for Health, social services & Public Safety received verbal and written evidence from many sources and on the 10th February it published its report which, with a couple of minor amendments, passed the Bill to the Consideration Stage.

The Consideration Stage took place on the 22nd February. This stage is a debate on any amendments to the Bill.  This passed the Bill to the next Stage. The Further Consideration Stage took place on the 7th March. This debate looked at two technical amendments to the Bill and passed the Bill to move to the Final Stage.

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The Final Stage took place on the 15th March.  This debate passed the Autism Bill (NI)

Northern Ireland now has cradle to grave Autism legislation, the most comprehensive in the UK and indeed Ireland. Further Information

Royal Assent

On Monday 9th May 2011 the Bill was given Royal Assent and became the Autism Act (NI) 2011

The Autism Lobby takes on a new role to see that the Act is carried out in the "Spirit" of the Bill, since the quality and content of the NI Autism Strategy and the equality changes regarding Disability Discrimination Act will be monitored by Autism NI.

Oct - Dec 2010

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The ASD information campaign to convey the detail of the proposed Autism Bill got underway.  Using the media (TV and Newspapers) to get the message to the public, engaging agencies in a formal consultation on the Autism Bill, and giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committees dominated 2010.


BBC Spotlight and Stormont Today featured the Autism Bill lobby.  Regionally, newspapers picked up on the story.

Party Conferences

Autism NI and PAL (Parent Autism Lobby) have merged together to lobby for the Autism Bill.  One joint project is to show a combined ASD lobby at Party Conferences.


SDLP Party Conference

Linda Kelly (PAL Steering Group member) with Margaret Ritchie (Leader, SDLP) at SDLP Conference on 6 November 2010.


DUP Party Conference

Claire Hughes (PAL Steering Group Member) with the First Minister at the DUP Conference on 27 November 2010.

UUP, Alliance and Sinn Fein Party Conferences

Representation was ensured at the UUP (2010)Conference

Leaflets and Packs were sent to the Alliance ( Jan 2011) Party Conference.

Plans to attend the Sinn Fein Party Conference in 2011 are underway.

"Support the Autism Bill" Campaign

A postcard "I support the Autism Bill" campaign from First Reading up to the Northern Ireland Assembly Election involving parents and supporters across Northern Ireland is underway.

It is encouraging to note the endorsement of the general principles of the Bill by all major ASD charities in Northern Ireland.  Read Content of the Autism Bill

September 2010

Judicial Decision (ASD)

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Autism NI were asked by the Children's Law Centre to support families in WHSCT by providing sworn evidence on two occasions regarding alleged failure to make carers assessments accessible to ASD families.  In September 2010, the Judicial Decision by Justice Tracey found WHSCT in breach of its duty under the Children's Order. 

ACTION:  Autism NI call on the Minister of Health to carry out a regional audit on the issue to fulfil his "I will fill that gap" promise Northern Ireland Assembly debate of 31 March 2009 if a gap was identified.  Please click on attachment at bottom of page for more information.


January - December 2010

Autism NI fully engaged with the 2010 DHSSPS Action Plan (RASDN) attending over 40 meetings and contributing a range of resources.  Autism NI is a member of the Regional Reference Group (RASDN), WHSCT Forum and sub group, Training sub group and Communication sub group.

APGA activities continue

  • Dominic Bradley MLA (Chair of the All Party Group on Autism at the Northern Ireland Assembly), Kieran McCarthy MLA (Vice Chair) and Arlene Cassidy (APGA Secretariat/CEO, Autism NI) gave evidence on five occasions to Assembly Committees (OFMDFM, Health and Education).
  • Autism Bill Consultation (March/April 2010) - over 30 voluntary and public bodies (including Trusts and ELBs) resulted in an average 80% support for Autism legislation.
  • Dominic Bradley MLA with APGA Secretariat were engaged in Bill Drafting meetings with the Assembly Bills Office.


April 2009


The Parent Autism Lobby (PAL) group which was formed in 2009 continues its programme of political meetings for parents across Northern Ireland as well as engagement with all political parties in support of a more transparent and accountable inclusion of carers and people with ASD within the DHSSPS Action Plan for Autism and its integration within the Autism Bill (NI).

March 2009



The “Stand up for Autism” Rally and Debate on Autism on 31st March 2009 marked the start of Autism Awareness Month. Further Information

February 2009


Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee visit Autism Northern Ireland to discuss support for developing Adult Services with Autism Initiatives & Orchardville Society.


February 2008

 The Republic of Ireland Parliament Launch of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership.

The Launch at the Oireachtas was attended by parents and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 26th February 2008 who mixed with colleagues from the Dail afterwards at a reception in Leinster House.

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November 2007

 The Scottish Parliament Launch of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership.

The Scottish Parliament recognition of the Celtics Nations Partnership was celebrated on November 2007 by an event attended by parents from Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as pupils from new Struan Centre for Autism.


September 2007 – June 2008


A Review on Autism Services was set up by the Minister of Health to develop an Action Plan for Autism Services. Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Chaired the Review.

October 2007

 Walk for Autism! Walk for Legislation!

On Saturday 13th October 2007, we will walk from the gates of Stormont to the steps of Parliament Buildings to present letters, petitions and notices to our MLAs. We are here! We will help ourselves, by helping each other to always be here. Our politicians are on a promise! They voted unanimously for legislation on the 9th January 2007 so let's encourage them by keeping up the pressure. Let's encourage them by showing them who they are doing this for. It is time for the children, young people and adults with Autism to be offered the chance to take the front rank in this campaign for equality of provision." The Walk for Autism Legislation was a family affair.


Autism NI organised through the regional Branch and Support Group Network. Access to Stormont Estate for this Saturday event was subject to security protocols and numbers were limited. This was a unique opportunity for parents, professionals and politicians to walk together and, with each step, know that we are leaving social injustice and ignorance behind. On the 13th October 2007, 20,000 signatures were presented to each political party. 600 people walked!!

September 2007



The Atlantic Autism Alliance representatives at the Launch in Washington DC in September 2007.
Further Information

June 2007


The Northern Ireland Assembly Launch of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership.



View Dr Ian Paisley's Speech and Dominic Bradley's Speech at the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership.

The Northern Ireland Launch of CNAP was held on the 19th June 2007 and was hosted by Dominic Bradley MLA and launched by the First Minister who made a rousing speech in support of the call for Legislation. The event attracted the attendance of the Deputy First Minister and participation of the Ministers of Education and Health.


January 2007


The Welsh Assembly recognition of the Celtic Nations was celebrated in January 2007. The Northern Ireland Assembly support legislation.

In January 2007, the NI Transitional Assembly voted in support of legislation for Autism and by the end of January with a Pledge of support from the Northern Ireland Assembly Autism Ambassadors.



The Autism Societies of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland celebrate the formation of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership to push for legislation across these Islands and to exchange best practice. The Welsh Assembly Launch of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership on 30 Jan 2007 also marked the Launch of the all Wales ASD Strategy.



In April 2008, The Welsh Assembly Government announced a first year budget of almost £2m to implement the Wales National Autism Strategy and appointed the CEO of Autism Cymru (Hugh Morgan) to oversee this period of critical implementation.


January 2006


In January 2006 the NI Transitional Assembly pledged to work for Autism and then in June MLAs signed up to a campaign for legislation. In March 2006 Autism NI and Autism Cymru form a historic partnership.

The concept of an alliance between National Autism Societies emerged from the shared experience ofmartin_maginnis.jpg mutual benefit felt by Autism Cymru and Autism NI as they explored and agreed a common mission to Lobby politically to effect real progress for Autism in their own nations.  This shared purpose was celebrated at a reception hosted by the then Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland (Peter Hain).  

The Celtic Nations Autism Partnership (CNAP) title was agreed when the Scottish Society of Autism and later the Republic of Ireland joined this movement for equality and social change through political action.



We came away from that with a commitment from the Secretary of State to meet with him to exchange views as well as his promise to correct the alarming and ill-formed recommendation of the NI Review of Mental Health & Learning Disability (Bamford Review 2006) to place ASD within Mental Health.