Posted 05.08.2020

The Department of Health as advised that the Autism Strategy 2013-2020 will come to an end in December 2020 and whilst preparations had been underway to inform future priorities for the development of a revised strategy for implementation in 2021, these preparations have been significantly impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  None of us could have anticipated the impact and the challenges that these circumstances have presented in our daily lives, and in our communities.

Preparation undertaken has largely involved engagement with other Departments, health sector colleagues, the community and voluntary sector and service users to obtain views on progress delivered by the current strategy, and to identify issues and priorities to be considered in the next strategy.  From these discussions, clear priorities have emerged including: 

  1. The need for early intervention and support for families, particularly given the growing prevalence rates for autism and increasing numbers of referrals for both children and adults
  2. Closer working between and greater integration of health and education
  3. More focus on provision and equitable access to services for adults with autism
  4. Stronger partnership working with the community and voluntary sector. 

Discussions have also conveyed a need for greater emphasis on outcomes-focussed actions and responsive governance arrangements to support the delivery of the next strategy, therefore we are proposing that the next strategy will be delivered as a ‘live’ document to enable us to respond to emerging issues and provide a more dynamic mechanism to review, amend and monitor the strategy throughout its lifespan and will be framed around the outcomes of the Programme for Government to enable autism to be integrated into core priorities for government.

However, the Department is mindful that, given the extent to which autism impacts on families and our communities, it is important that their voice is heard and their views expressed to influence how we shape future autism priorities in Northern Ireland.

Mindful of the current restrictions in relation to social distancing the Department has drafted a questionnaire for you to have your say. Please click on the link below to complete it.

Responses must be received no later than Tuesday 1 September 2020.

Download the Autism Future Priorities - Stakeholder Engagement Questionnaire

Download the Autism Future Priorities - Stakeholder Engagement Easy Read Version