Deputy McCarthy said: “One need only look abroad to see the advances that have been made by our counterparts in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland on this issue, where autism-specific laws and national strategies have been put in place in recent years.
“It is a sad reflection of our State that we do not have similar legislative footing around the issue of autism, especially given the increasing prevalence of the condition here.
“Autism to this day presents a significant public health challenge in Ireland, with an estimated 600 people born here with the condition every year. Until such time as we have a national autism strategy in place, there will be an ongoing cost to society of the resources we waste. The National Review of Autism Services, which was published in February by the HSE, identified that current services can vary from robust, comprehensive and integrative to isolated, patchy and ineffective, and that differing models and approaches tare evident across Local Health Office and Service Areas.
“It is wrong that the quality of service provision should depend on geography rather than need and this must change. Owing to a lack of autism legislation – which would dovetail a national strategy – people with autism and their carers face something of a postcode lottery in terms of service provision. A national strategy would ensure national standards of service provision and give guidance to local service providers.
“As long as services aren’t being properly targeted, ineffectiveness and waste will continue and we will fail to equip people with autism with the right supports that ultimately enable them to lead independent and productive lives. A national strategy would not only transform services, but it would also change attitudes across our society, build public and professional awareness and reduce the social exclusion that people with autism too often face.
“I raised this issue in the Dáil yesterday and will continue to do so as I believe the matter deserves appropriate focus and attention.”