Carlow-Kilkenny TD Kathleen Funchion
Carlow/Kilkenny TD Kathleen Funchion is supporting AsIAm’s Say Yes campaign supporting people with autism that will run throughout the month of April.
Speaking on World Autism Awareness Day, Sinn Fein spokesperson on Children, Equality and Integration, Deputy Funchion welcomed the opportunity to be part of a national conversation about autism.
“More and more people are aware of autism and I welcome this opportunity to raise awareness and promote understanding in the wider community through a national conversation about autism.
“These campaigns have highlighted the fact that every experience of autism is very unique.”
“The revelations in the recent RTÉ Investigates programme that there is widespread data sharing between the Department of Health and legal firms representing the state in opposing claims made in respect of families of children with autism is wrong and deeply troubling.
“This is very concerning and a gross breach of trust by the Department.
“Respect for the dignity and privacy of individuals is at the heart of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Article 22 sets out the State responsibility to protect the privacy of personal and health information of people with disabilities on an equal basis.
“There are many questions that need to be answered. We need full clarity and transparency on this disgraceful practice, and we need to see an immediate end to it.
“There needs to be an independent non-statutory investigation of the ethical and legal rationale for this, similar in scope and duration to the Scally Inquiry.
“This also highlights the need for ratification of the optional protocol of the UNCRPD. Establishing rights is so important but ensuring these are upheld is critical.
“We see this every day with the Assessment of Need process. While there is a legal requirement to carry out an Assessment of Need within six months the average waiting time, as of July 2020, was 19 months.
“5,000 children were waiting longer than the law permits for an assessment. And this is only the tip of the ice-berg as while the law stipulates that an assessment should be carried out within this timeframe, although as we know this is often not the case.
“There is no statutory timeframe of access to the supports, services or therapies stipulated as needed within the assessment. This is a growing issue and needs to be urgently addressed," she said.
“The continual side-lining of people with autism, I believe strongly shows that the Autism strategy and a dedicated Dáil Autism Committee I proposed and was fully supported in the last Dáil must be prioritised.
“People with autism have been battling many years for their rights and entitlements.
“Children face lengthy waiting times for assessment. They struggle to locate appropriate school places.
“Adults with autism face huge gaps in the provision of crucial services, particularly in finding work, securing social welfare or living independently.
“Sinn Féin are committed to working on all of these issues to ensure that the Government acts to finally put in place the services and supports that people with autism need and should be entitled to," she added.