Autism bill passes at Stormont with all-party support

DUP MLA Pam Cameron has successfully passed her autism bill through its final stage at Stormont, with all-party support.

The bill aims to improve consultation, training and access to support and services.

It will also appoint an 'autism reviewer' to ensure the needs of those with autism are properly addressed by Government.

Shelly Armstrong has two children diagnosed with autism and is going through the autism diagnosis process for a third time. On this occasion for her 3 year-old child Noah. She was at Stormont awaiting news on the bill.

She said the process currently makes her feel sick to her stomach with anxiety and stress.

"We have just submitted for our fourth child to go through it so I don't now when he will recieve his diagnosis," Ms Armstrong told UTV moments before the bill passed.

"And if it's too late you miss a huge window for early intervention so hopefully when the bill passes the waiting lists will reduce and then once they reduce and he can get his diagnosis quicker and we can get access to services quicker. And it will be the making of him," she added.

DUP MLA Pam Cameron said she wants to see an end to a 'postcode lottery' of autism services across different parts of Northern Ireland.

"This is the Autism Amendment Bill, it is seeking to amend the original Autism Act from 2011," she told UTV.

"The Autism Act from 2011 is a great piece of legislation, but it hasn't really been effective because it hasn't really been used, so the amendments we have made will ensure the whole Act is implemented the way it was designed to be implemented.

"So part of that will be a change where we introduce a reviewer role, and that will be a person who will seek to ensure the bill is acted on in its entirety.

"There will be duties on the department as well to publish a report annually on how departments have sought funding on autism services.

"So this is about making the original Autism Act work well, and ensuring the autism community receive the services they so desperately need and deserve."