Dominic Bradley's Speech

Dominic Bradley’s Speech

First Minister, Deputy First Minister, MLA’s guests from near and far.

On my own behalf I would like to welcome all of you to the Launch of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership in the Long Gallery in Parliament Buildings today.

Fáilte rombaibh go Tuansiceart Eireann
Fair Fae till Norlin Airlin
Do Bheatha dhan duthaich Eirinn a Tuath
Iachy Da

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are all aware of the growing pressure of numbers of children, young people, and adults and the challenge that pressure places on the fragile Autism services – this pressure must be addressed as must the increasing family stress levels now recognised in international research as being much greater than for any other disability group.

In the Transitional Assembly I was proud to lead the debate on the NI Autism Act which I am pleased to report to you that the motion on that occasion calling for an Autism Act for NI was carried unanimously by the house.

I believe that the debate that day prepared the way for Autism legislation for NI.  With devolution we now have the opportunity to move things forward in that direction and I am happy to report that some more steps have been taken since then.

I want to pay a tribute to Autism NI especially, and the other Autism advocacy groups, in putting ASD high on the Assembly agenda and I hope that all parties will follow up on their support for the motion mentioned earlier with support and help delivering the legislation.

Today is a great day for the Autism community in Northern Ireland – The Launch of the Celtic Nations Autism Partnership (CNAP) here in NI.  This partnership can deliver much which is of mutual benefit and support to all the participating nations in terms of sharing of good practice, peer support, exchange of research and emerging information, and joint campaigning for legislation – I notice that the First Minister for NI and the First Minister of Scotland have taken their lead from the CNAP and are to jointly lobby Gordon Brown for more resources.  But not only is CNAP forging beneficial relationships within these islands but is reaching out across the Atlantic to form the Atlantic Autism Alliance to assist in the exchange knowledge and support on ASD legislation in the US.  I know that a visit to the US is planned in September and I think that it would be appropriate for the Assembly to send a fact finding mission of ministerial status with the Autism partners.

Finally, I would call on the Minister for Health to examine Autism NI ‘strategies and practice’ document with a view to framing a strategy for ASD in legislation – I would ask the Minister to take the opportunity to move this issue forward.

May I commend Autism NI to the Minister as very suitable specialist advisors to him following the precedent set by Autism Cymru in Wales.

I leave you with these thoughts in the hope that we are now in a position to move this issue forward without delay.