Posted: Thu 17th Jan 2019

Wrexham’s AM defends vote against Autism Bill – Plaid AM calls it ‘cynical voting’ for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jan 17th, 2019

Wrexham’s Assembly Member has spoken about her decision to vote against an Autism (Wales) Bill – saying she believes the “proposed legislation would not be the most appropriate way to achieve the desired outcomes.”

Lesley Griffiths was amongst 28 Assembly Members – including Labour, Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams and one independent AM – to opposed the Autism (Wales) Bill in the Senedd last night. The Bill was defeated by 28 votes to 24.

The proposed Autism (Wales) 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

Following last night’s vote there has been criticism over the 28 AMs who voted against the Bill – including Ms Griffiths.

This afternoon contacted Ms Griffiths to find out why she voted against the Bill last night and if the Welsh Government had any future plans for legislation to further support those living with autism in Wales.

Ms Griffiths said: “Several constituents have contacted my office both in favour of the Autism Bill and against it so I fully recognise people are passionate about this issue.

“Improving services for people living with autism is required, however, after carefully considering and analysing the information, I believe the proposed legislation would not be the most appropriate way to achieve the desired outcomes.

“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.”

However Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said that “people with autism and their families have been let down by the Labour party in Wales and their cynical voting against the Autism Bill.”

“Plaid Cymru supported this bill, which was part of our manifesto commitment in 2016,” said Mr Gruffydd.

“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. This is not the end of the matter as far as Plaid Cymru is concerned and we will be scrutinising the government rigorously to ensure that their promises are kept.

“A Plaid Cymru government would introduce legislation that protects and promotes the rights of autistic people in Wales, their families and carers.”

In a statement the National Autistic Society, said: “We’re disappointed that a proposed new law for autistic people in Wales has failed to secure enough support from Assembly Members at a crucial vote in the National Assembly for Wales, losing out 28 votes to 24.

“Throughout this process, it has become clear to many, something that our members and supporters have been saying for years – the support available for autistic people in Wales is not good enough.

“Whilst the Autism Bill will not now proceed further, we will continue campaigning to protect and promote the rights of autistic people across Wales and fight for the improvements in services that are so clearly needed.”

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