The Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE) acknowledge that services for children with disabilities, including Autism need to be improved and organised more effectively. Following the publication of the Review of the Irish Health Services for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in December 2018, Minister for Health, Simon Harris asked the HSE to commence the implementation of the recommendations in the review including an Autism Plan to be published in 2019. The recommendations of this review were informed by consultation with and through submissions from parents and services users as well as clinicians working in services for people with Autism.
€2 million was secured in Budget 2020 for the Autism Plan. One part of this plan is the development of an awareness raising campaign that can provide a better information resource for children and parents about what supports are available. This campaign will also assist in creating awareness of the challenges, needs and experiences of people with autism.
Another significant part of the Autism Plan is to build capacity and competence among key professionals working in services for people with Autism. This includes a national training programme for clinicians and the implementation of a tiered model of assessment in order to improve access to and responses by services for those with Autism.
I want to emphasise that the primary objective of investing in an Autism Plan is to improve services for people with Autism and their families.
As well as the €2 million announced for the Autism Plan, significant investment in services was announced in Budget 2019 with funding for 100 new therapy posts secured for children's disability services. 44 of these posts are now in place and the HSE committed to filling all posts by the end of 2019.
These posts while not meeting all needs, will have a significant positive impact on waiting times for access to vital therapy services over the course of next year and help to drive the implementation of the Progressing Disabilities Services for Children and Young People Programme.