Posted: Fri 18th Jan 2019

Flintshire Labour AM’s amongst 28 who voted against Autism Bill

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jan 18th, 2019

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A proposed new law for autistic people in Wales failed to secure enough support from Assembly Members at a crucial vote in the Senedd on Wednesday.

The Welsh Government had opposed the Autism (Wales) Bill from the start on the grounds it would place “greater focus on diagnosis that would divert precious resources away from services.”

All but three Labour AM’s, including Alyn and Deeside’s Jack Sargeant and Delyn’s Hannah Blythyn voted against the Bill as did Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams and one independent AM.

Three Labour AM’s didn’t vote.

The move has left families “profoundly disappointed” that Welsh Government has not listened to their concerns.

Support for the Autism Bill came from the Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and an independent AM.

The proposed Bill had been put forward for consideration by Conservative Leader Paul Davies AM.

The purpose of the Bill – developed alongside the National Autistic Society – was to provide autistic people in Wales with a statutory right to receive timely services that can meet their needs and work to improve understanding of the condition.

The proposed bill would also seek to:

– Introduce a strategy for meeting the needs of children and adults in Wales with autistic spectrum disorder conditions
– Ensure a clear pathway to diagnosis of autism in local areas
– Ensure that local authorities and health boards understand and take necessary action so that children and adults with autism get the timely support they need
– Collect appropriate data so that local areas can plan accordingly
– Regularly review the strategy and guidance to ensure progress

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab) said that support for autistic people needs to be better and it is not yet consistently available, “for some families it does feel like a fight to get the right support and a system that works against them.” Said Mr Gething.

Mr Gething, who voted against the Bill, said:

“We believe that we have all the legislative powers that we need to deliver the required improvements in autism services, and we are delivering on our commitments set out in the autism strategy.

If the improvements that we’re committed to make are not realised, then the door is of course open to future legislation, if that would make the difference that we all want to see.”

Lesley Griffiths (Lab) AM for Wrexham defended Labour’s position, she told our sister site

“Work undertaken by the Welsh Government, which is backed by a number of clinicians and professional bodies, suggests the Bill would place a greater focus on diagnosis that would divert precious resources away from services.

“It is worth highlighting a great deal of work is already taking place to improve the care and support available to people with autism and their families. An updated Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategy was initiated last year covering many aspects set out in the Bill.”

She added: “The Welsh Government has also increased investment; £13m has been allocated to rollout out a new Integrated Autism Service nationwide, which has already launched in North Wales and £2m a year has been outlined to improve children and young people’s neurodevelopment assessment and diagnostic services.”

“Ambitions to improve services are, of course, commendable but it is questionable whether the legislation in its current form can add to existing measures. The new policies must be given the chance to settle but it is vital they are continually monitored.

“If the reforms to autism services do not have the desired effect, it will be right to consider implementing appropriate legislation in future.”

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said: 

“Plaid Cymru supported this Bill, which was part of our manifesto commitment in 2016.

Had we be in power, this would now be law and it’s a disgrace that Labour saw fit to vote down this important piece of legislation.

People with autism and their families have been let down by the Labour party in Wales and their cynical voting against the Autism Bill. 

The Liberal Democrat member and the Independent AM were both elected on manifestos to introduce legislation on autism and their rejection of the Bill is equally disappointing.

The distressing evidence we received from people with autism and their families of the challenges they face to get some kind of diagnosis, of identifying support where support is needed, where it exists at all, of getting access to their support shows how desperately legislation is needed.

There’s a shocking lack of consistency nationally and, where services are good, they are too often dependent on skilled and caring individuals in certain professions.

“Families are profoundly disappointed that the Welsh Government and the Labour party have not listened to and acted on their concerns.”

Local Reaction

Shotton resident Cheryl Woodfin who’s son Jack has Angelman Syndrome, considered a ‘syndromic’ form of autism spectrum disorder, was “beyond angry” the Bill had been voted down, She said:

“There is no logical reason why it would not be passed unless it was to the detriment to people with autism.”

“Our children with additional needs have to face challenges every day.

If our own politicians who we vote for don’t view what they go through as something to act upon, I actually despair. ”

Sealand Councillor Christine Jones (Lab) responded to this tweet by National Autistic Society Cymru:

She said: “Disgraceful, people with autism have been let down yet again.”

In response to a tweet by Cheryl Woodfin asking: “Why would anyone vote against it.” Cllr Jones said:

Meleri Thomas from National Autistic Society Cymru said that since the vote, they have been inundated with messages and comments from its members and supporters from across Wales expressing their frustration at the result. She said:

“Many feel that they just haven’t been listened to.

We’re disappointed that the National Assembly has voted not to let the Autism Bill be developed further.

Please be assured that we will hold Welsh Government to account on its commitments to improve autism services.

We’d like thank Paul Davies AM and his team for their considerable efforts in bringing this Bill forward and highlighting the issues that autistic people and their families face in their daily lives.”

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