Friday, 2 October 2009

SHAM - Autism Bill - Everybody Now Knows!

2 October 2009

Top doctor's autism bill concerns

NI's chief medical officer has said he has "significant concerns" about proposed autism legislation.

Dr Michael McBride said it could lead to discrimination against those with similar disabilities who have not been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum.
He warned the assembly's health committee that parents could seek an autism diagnosis to access facilities.

Arlene Cassidy of the charity Autism NI said she was "astounded" by Dr McBride's comments.
"I find the chief medical officer ill informed about the purpose of the Autism Bill," she told BBC Radio Ulster.

"This is a good thing, it is about building upon the good work of the departments of health and education - this bill is about joining up government."

Dr McBride said he had a number of major concerns about the Autism Bill (NI).
“ Legislation would encourage more strategic planning regionally across all departments ” Arlene Cassidy Autism NI

He said he was worried about the "substantive administrative costs that would be incurred and the lack of clarity over how the legislation could be put into operation, given our current equality legislation".

"I believe this legislation could discriminate against individuals who could have a similar range of disabilities such as speech, language and communication problems but are not on the autism spectrum," he added.

His comments were backed by director of mental health Dr Maura Briscoe, who warned the committee the bill could create a hierarchy of disability and create labelling "not to the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland".

An action plan to improve services was introduced earlier this year, but Ms Cassidy said legislation was necessary to ensure a multi-agency approach.
"The autism action plan is a positive step forward but it is for the Department of Health - autism is a holistic problem, it is a lifelong problem and involves other government departments," she said.

"People involved in the action plan have found they haven't got co-operation from other departments, so legislation would encourage more strategic planning regionally across all departments."

One of the bill's supporters, SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley, told the BBC he remained confident the bill would eventually be passed despite the objections of Dr McBride and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

"I don't think it's the end of the road - we have the support of the majority of political parties and indeed we did have the support of the Ulster Unionist Party until recently," he said.
Mr Bradley said cross-departmental planning would save money by removing "duplication of effort".

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginness, who was involved in drawing up the autism action plan, said introducing legislation would be costly and time-wasting.

"Based on the needs of parents, carers and users rather than the demands of a voluntary group or politicians, we've got a lead autism director in each trust, a project team and will soon be able to assess every two-year-old child in Northern Ireland," he said.

listen live on BBC IPlayer here: (fast forward to 1 hr and 42 minutes for this particular 9 minute clip)

Story from BBC NEWS: 2009/10/02 08:50:48 GMT© BBC MMIX

**Let's remember Arlene Cassidy's references to 'looking on the bright side', following the Middletown Centre for Autism fallout in May this year.

In this clip from 18 May 2009,( Ms Cassidy was asked her opinion over the Middletown debacle. She responded, "maybe this provides us all with an opportunity...I am a great believer in looking for the silver lining and maybe some of the funding diverted to Middletown can be used otherwise."

Yes Ms Cassidy, I agree with you on that one. With regard to the Autism Bill and the exorbitant amount of money it would waste, your previous comments regarding 'diversion' of monies are applicable here too. Let's 'divert' money for this ridiculous bill, to those who need it most, namely our children. Seriously, what has changed for our children in the past 20 years, actually the same 20 years that AutismNI/AutismUlster has been in existence? How many ASD specific schools with trained teachers would the Autism Bill buy? How many youth/adult employment transition schemes would it fund? The comparison of Northern Ireland to the Republic or to England is dire in terms of what is available for our children. We need real early intervention, not half hazard 'attempts'. We need a complete overhaul of the belief systems of those who work with our kids in this province. Our children need so much - legislation guarantees nothing - in fact it might even make things worse by creating a restrictive perimeter around what can/cannot be done.

Autism in Northern Ireland seems to be more about wasting money than anything else. 7 million pounds has already disappeared down the Middletown rabbit hole, much of it having gone into the pockets of Directors.

The fact our 'legislators' allowed 7 million pounds to be wasted, that it was done 'legally' is not very encouraging. What we could have done with that money!!

Let's not make the same mistake again. The Autism Bill is a fruitless, redundant and ultimately damaging idea and I am so thankful that some people in Northern Ireland are seeing sense and that others are finally having their voice heard over the din of others' egos and career ambitions.