Autism Act (NI) 2011

Link to Autism Act


Is Autism NI needed at the centre of the implementation of the Autism Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 ensuring the "Spirit of the Bill" is carried through?


There are 20 reasons...

5 Facts you need to know

The Autism Act (NI) 2011....

  1. the result of a 5 year lobby partnership led by Autism NI working with the All Party Group on Autism at the NI Assembly and supported by the wider Autism community across NI.
  2. ...surpasses the English Autism Act (2010) as the most comprehensive and progressive legislation for Autism across the UK and Ireland.
  3. equality and rights based, bringing entitlements for people with Autism into line with the rest of the disability sector.
  4. the first legislation binding all government departments to plan, cooperate and implement an agreed strategy and services for individuals with a disability.
  5. ...sets in place a system of scrutiny and accountability that is overseen by the NI Assembly.


5 Actions established by the Act

The Autism Act (NI) 2011....

  1. ...changes the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) definition of disability so that for people with Autism
    ...entitlement to services will no longer be measured solely by intellectual (IQ) or physical (“can he walk from A to B?”) ability.
    ...access to services and benefits will now also be on the basis of the level of social and communication impairment and function, previously DLA was disallowed because Autism did not clearly fit within the protection and definition of the DDA, this is no longer the case
  2. ...places a duty on the Department of Health & Social Security (DHSSPS) to act as the lead government agency in producing, reviewing and implementing a cross department strategy for Autism. Currently, cross department cooperation is only discretionary.
  3. ...places a duty on all government departments to agree a data collection system to calculate current and future need for services for people with Autism and their families for future planning. Currently, data collection is largely an internal process that is service or department specific and not suitable of general planning.
  4. ...places a duty upon DHSSPS to clearly detail how the needs of families and carers is to be addressed. This is a clear directive towards family support service development.
  5. ...places a duty upon government to implement an effective Autism awareness campaign strategy, e.g. Information website, poster campaign, etc.

5 Impacts on your Family

The Autism Act (NI) 2011....

  1. ... will, by implementing changes to DDA, impact with the removal of the IQ score of 70+ as a barrier to accessing services.
  2. ... will, by implementing changes to DDA, clarify the legal basis for discrimina­tion cases regarding Autism in the areas of, for example, employment and benefit entitlement.
  3. ... will, by implementing changes to DDA and creating an Autism awareness campaign, improve public knowledge and understanding of the condition, potentially reducing isolation felt by families living with Autism in their local communities.
  4. ... will bring a legal basis for the recognition of Autism and an end to the denial of the condition by certain professions.
  5. ... requires all government departments to plan together for Autism for the first time ever. The government strategy will mean that some government departments will be contributing to Autism services for the first time.


5 Targets for us all!

The Autism Act (NI) 2011....

  1. new! So we must all play our part in informing friends, colleagues and public bodies of the content, obligations and legal requirements within it.
  2. progressive! Families have learned not to expect overnight answers or solutions. The Autism Act (NI) is a tool to be used by the Autism community and government departments to prioritise, access services and improve planning in an era of economic restraint. So copy this information liberally!
  3. a significant foundation! The Act gives a legal basis for recognition and understanding of Autism as a full intellectual range social and communication disability. This legal standing is more permanent than any policy, regulation or departmental strategy which can be overturned as government Ministers move on. So be confident in using this information in all settings!
  4. a tool! The Autism Act had its opposition from influential supporters of the status quo. Information such as is contained in this factsheet is a vital antidote to this negativity as well as being crucial to achieving equality and services for individuals with Autism.
  5. a start! The Act is a stepping stone to achieving the equality, recognition and services so long denied to individuals with Autism in NI as a result of the well documented legacy of neglect and underinvestment. So the work continues!


The political viewpoint ~ Party Manifestos  2011 Election


  • Conduct a value for money review of the Autism Centre at Middletown.
  • Overhaul the Regional Autistic Spectrum Disorders Network and speedup diagnosis and intervention for autism.
  • Further improve the processing system to take greater account of, and show more sensitivity to, the difficulties experienced by people with conditions such as autism.


  • SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley brought an Autism Bill through the Assembly. This legislation will ensure government plans holistically and realistically for the future needs of people with autism, their families and carers. We made sure that all parties signed up to the SDLP’s Autism Act. This groundbreaking piece of legislation will ensure that people with autism, their families and carers now have access to the full range of services they require throughout the course of their lives. We will support the new developments in safeguarding children and encourage Trusts to continue developing family support services for children in need. In particular, we will emphasise the continuing necessity for respite care for children with learning needs and children with autism.


  • The Alliance Party supports the Autism Act. The views of people with autism and their carers should influence policy across all departments. The full range of appropriate services and easy access to mainstream  services should be available in a timely on-going manner. Awareness training for staff and the public in all settings and earlier detection, intervention and support would enhance the experience of people with autism and their carers. Agreed referral and care pathways are required including seamless transition between child and adolescent mental health and adult mental health services. Support systems for parents, families and other carers are crucial including resourcing for parent groups.

Historic Commitment 

Final Assembly Debate on the Autism Bill (March 2011)


  • “We are proud that the DUP have supported the Autism Bill (NI) from the outset and are delighted that all major parties saw how morally right this was.” Jonathan Craig MLA, Ian McCrea MLA and Alex Easton MLA

Sinn Fein:

  • “Sinn Fein welcomes this Bill reaching the final stage of the process.  It will create a legislative framework to develop a strategy for those on the Autism spectrum who have previously fallen between two stools. ” Michelle O’Neill MLA


  • “The Autism Act (NI) 2011 now supersedes the ‘adult services only’ focus of the Autism Act (England) 2010 and becomes the most comprehensive and equality based law for Autism across the UK and Ireland. The NI Assembly has truly come of age in having the vision to identify and address a longstanding gap in our disability sector.” Dominic Bradley MLA


  • “This is a vital first step but families need to know their new rights under the law and the real impact this will have. This battle was not won overnight and it was waged against massive ignorance and reluctance to recognise Autism. The work to activate the potential of this new law will be just as vital and I have no doubt that Autism NI, once more, will be at the forefront in ensuring that people with Autism in Northern Ireland and their families no longer get second rate consideration. They are to be congratulated for their selfless work on this new law.” Kieran McCarthy MLA