Autism bill: Hope new law may get support from AMs

A graphic about autism Image copyright Getty Images

There is hope a renewed attempt to get a bill covering autism treatment will get the support it needs to become law.

The proposal, by Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies, would see health boards and councils specify what services they need to deliver and would expand upon the Welsh Government's autism strategy.

A vote on the Autism Act for Wales will be be put to AMs on on Wednesday.

But there are fears it could put Wales off course for some of its "world-leading" treatment.

Mr Davies won a ballot in March to introduce the bill but he needs a majority of AMs in the Senedd to support it for it to become law.

The bill would see a strategy introduced to meet the needs of children and adults in Wales and ensure councils and health boards understand and take necessary action to support people.

Wales adopted an autism strategy in 2008 and it has recently been updated to include a 26-week waiting time target from referral to first appointment for children with autism.

Mr Davies wants similar legislation as he said the current plan only lasts until 2020.

"What my bill will do is to make sure that there is permanence in these services, putting these services on a statutory footing," he added.

Image caption Paul Davies said the autism bill was a great opportunity for Wales

However, Steve Thomas, chief executive of the Welsh Local Government Association, told BBC Radio Wales' Eye on Wales programme he was not sure this was needed.

"Is Wales disadvantaged by not having an Autism Act along the lines that they have in England? I don't know is the honest answer. Some of the stuff that we're doing in Wales is world-leading," he said.

"What we want to do is make sure that whatever happens in terms of a legislative process, it doesn't drive us off course in terms of the direction of travel we're currently taking."

A previous attempt by the Conservatives to get the Welsh Government to commit to autism legislation was defeated in the Senedd in October.

But Mr Davies is optimistic about this attempt: "I'm hopeful that it will get the go-ahead. All I'm asking at the moment is that I have leave to introduce a bill - I'll have 13 months then to work up a bill, to consult widely with stakeholders."

The Welsh Government said it was committed to improving support for people with autism, with £13m being spent on a National Integrated Autism Service over the next four years.

A spokesman said there was already "both the legislative and policy levers to support people with autism in Wales," but the situation would be kept under review and legislation would be introduced if there were any gaps in the service.

  • Eye on Wales, BBC Radio Wales, 12:20 BST, 11 June.

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