Wales politics

Wales autism law rejection 'a kick in the teeth'

Beth Evans and her son George
Image caption Beth Evans has spent years trying to get her 12-year-old son George diagnosed and supported

A mother whose son has autism said it was like a "kick in the teeth" when AMs voted against introducing a law to give people with the condition more support.

Beth Evans, from Haverfordwest, has spent years battling to get her son George, 12, diagnosed and supported.

She campaigned for an autism bill, backed by the Tory assembly leader Paul Davies, but it did not have Welsh Government support.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said he was committed to improving services.

Opposition AMs had supported Mr Davies' bid for a new law, which would have put autism services on a statutory footing, but Labour and other government members did not.

AMs voted 28 against the bill and 24 for, stopping the bill proceeding in the assembly, when it was put to politicians on 16 January.

Mr Davies had argued the bill could have ensured there were clear routes to diagnosis, and could have helped staff get the training they need.

In the government's view, powers are already in place to deliver improvements in services.

"It feels like a kick in the teeth," Ms Evans said.

She said some of the AMs "have been fantastic, they've really sat and listened".

Image copyright Beth Evans
Image caption George's family had been campaigning for AMs to back a new law on rights for autistic people

"Others were really not interested in talking, really not interested in hearing and listening to the stories we've got to say," she told the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales programme.

"They'd already made their minds up, many of them, and no matter how much research and documentation and consultations the National Autistic Society did, they were never going to change their minds," Ms Evans added.

The National Autistic Society had supported the legislation, saying that a good law was "the essential foundation for improving the support for the 34,000 autistic people in Wales".

But the Welsh Government was concerned the bill would create a perception that autistic people will receive preferential services, meaning resources would be diverted from elsewhere.

The Welsh Conservatives have accused the Labour Welsh Government of tribalism over its decision to vote against the proposed autism legislation.

"I'm very, very concerned in the way that the Welsh Labour Government has approached this," Mr Davies said.

"It seems to me that there is a growing culture within the Welsh Labour Government not to support bills or legislation coming from opposition benches."

Image caption Vaughan Gething said he recognised that current services are not good enough

Vaughan Gething said he had recognised "again and again that the current provision isn't good enough. That's why we're committed to improving it".

"But it's also the case that there are families that have engaged with services, the new services which have been introduced, who recognise it's made the difference they're looking for," he said.

"This does come on the back of government matching the commitments that we've made on more than one occasion to invest money in the services, to make sure we're able to come back properly and openly evaluate what we're doing and to be committed to improving."

He said the government would be willing, "if what we're doing does not work, to look again at legislating to see if that's going to be the right answer".

Sunday Politics, BBC One Wales, 11:00 GMT, 27 January

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