Campaigning FAQs

What has Autism NI achieved through campaigning?

Autism NI, by empowering a network of parent activists and groups through a dedicated training, support and communication strategy, created a democratic movement for social change that operated at all levels of the evolving political structures across NI - from local communities, to Council chambers and to the NI Assembly. This campaign culminated in the passing of the Autism (NI) Act in 2011 but continues to monitor it's implementation and to advocate on a rights and equality agenda.

What is the Autism Act (Northern Ireland)?

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 (APGA) and the Autism community across NI. The Autism Act (NI) changed the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) definition of a disability so that people with Autism are entitled to services and it is no longer measured solely by intelligence or physical ability. This is the first legislation binding all govenment departments to plan, cooperate and implement an agreed strategy and service for individuals with a disability.

How will the Autism Act (NI) have an impact on individuals with Autism in Northern Ireland?

The Autism Act (NI) amended the Disability Discrimination Act to recognise Autism as a disability and consequently entitles individuals with Autism to have access to services and benefits based on their level of social and communication impairment and function and the right to expect reasonable adjustments to be made to assist this. DHSSPS also now acts as the lead government agency in producing, reviewing and implementing a cross department strategy for Autism. This 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. This also places a duty on DHSSPS to detail how the needs of families and carers are to be addressed and a clear directive towards family support service development. From the implementation of the Act, it is the government's duty to also run an effective Autism awareness campaign strategy. For more information on the Autism Act (NI), please click here.

What current Autism research is being carried out?

There are a number of universities involved in carrying out Autism Research in the UK (e.g. Cardiff University, Strathclyde, Queen's University Belfast and the Ulster University) as well as specific research organisations (e.g. Research Autism UK and Autistica). The Universities usually work in partnership with their local Autism voluntary sector (e.g. Autism NI, Scottish Autism etc). Research Autism UK's publication 'A future made together: Shaping Autism Review in the UK' 2014 gives an overview of research in the UK with a brief comparison with the USA. The NI Autism Strategy Research Advisory Committee (NIASRAC) is an instrument of the NI Autism Strategy that aims to monitor Autism research internationally and within Northern Ireland to inform best practice development. Autism NI's CEO is Chairperson of the NIASRAC and is a member of the Autism Research Working Group at Ulster University.

What sort of lobbying does Autism NI carry out?

Autism NI lobbies and advocates on a range of issues identified through its network of branch and support groups as well as from advice line queries. This can be based upon individual issues (such as school exclusion, adult diagnosis and access to services such as employment, housing and benefits) or collective concerns (e.g discrimination, non-compliance with the Autism Act).

What is the All Party Group on Autism (APGA)?

The All Party Group on Autism (APGA) emerged from the wider forum of Assembly Autism Ambassadors formed in 2002 at the start of the Autism NI led political lobby for social and legislative change and policy reform for Autism. The APGA acts as an influencer of government policy on Autism. The ongoing pressure on resources, policy development and planning has determined that the role of the APGA must be to progress necessary legislation on Autism, advocating for ASD, securing funding for ASD services, influencing effective strategies and policy systems for Autism, participating in the global human rights campaign and promoting cross Atlantic sharing of ASD expertise and research. Autism NI provides the Secretariat to the APGA. For more information on APGA, please click here.

What is the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership (CNAP)?

The Celtic Nations Autism Partnership was formed by 4 different Autism charities: Autism NI, Autism Cymru, the Irish Society for Autism and Scottish Autism. The CNAP encouraged forward thinking on Autism, within and across national boundaries, and also supported and promoted the development and implementation of National Strategies to improve the quality of life for people with Autism during the period 2006-2014. The Celtic Nations Autism Partnership has developed, maintained and promoted evidence-based practice in the field of Autism. For more information on the history of the CNAP, please click here.

What is the Atlantic Autism Alliance (AAA)?

The AAA was launched in Washington DC (2007) during the Autism NI led visit (by CNAP and NI Assembly delegates) to meet the US Congressional sponsors of Autism legislation in the USA. In 2015, the AAA was restructured in response to requests for increased membership to the CNAP. The research at the NI Assembly was attended by representatives from Scottish Autism, ASC (Cymru), Irish Society for Autism, the Autism Society of America and Autism NI. The AAA is committed to best practice collaborations and research development partnership. For more information on the Atlantic Autism Alliance, please click here.