Wednesday, 7 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
101. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Health and Children the actions which have been taken by his Department to implement recommendations of the report of the task force on autism which are relevant to his Department and the health boards. [11614/03]
119. Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for Health and Children if a task force will be set up to establish the numbers presenting with autism spectrum disorders and the causative factors and appropriate preventative strategies and to provide adequate support for individuals and their families. [11613/03]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O'Malley): I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 119 together. The task force on autism, which was established by the Department of Education and Science, has put forward a range of recommendations ranging from measures aimed at identifying prevalence rates, through issues relating to diagnosis and assessment, the centrality of the role of parents, the required models of education and health care services, the need for specialist training for those involved in service provision, to structural, constitutional and policy issues. The scope of the task force's recommendations is such as to require a multi-faceted response involving educational and health care inputs. The task force's recommendations are currently being considered by both Departments.
There has been a significant investment in both health-related and educational supports for persons with autism in recent years. Additional funding of €13.3 million has been allocated by my Department to services for persons with autism or intellectual disability in 2003 to meet the full year cost of the 2002 developments and to further enhance the health related support services to children with autism or intellectual disability. This funding is in addition to the very significant revenue investment, amounting to €188 million, which has been made in these services since 1997 and which is built into the ongoing budget base. The additional funding provided by this and the previous Government between 2000 and 2002 was used to put in place, in addition to a range of other services, more than 900 new residential, 380 new respite and approximately 2,000 new day places for people with autism and those with an intellectual disability.
In particular, €14.6 million has been invested by my Department in health related support services for children with autism or intellectual disability nationally between 1998 and 2002. This includes diagnostic and assessment services, early intervention, home support and out reach support to children of school going age. The health boards have been developing regional diagnostic and assessment services and these are at varying stages of development.
While some persons with autism, who also have an intellectual disability, are included on the national intellectual disability database, it does not contain information on this population as a whole. While the database provides information in relation to the level of services being provided and current and future needs, it does not identify persons with specific disabilities such as Down's syndrome or autism. Its principal role is as a planning and monitoring tool. Initial work was carried out in 2002 on the development of an information system which would give a level of information on the needs of persons with autism, similar to that already available from the national intellectual disability database. This work is being continued during 2003 with consultation to take place with the health boards, service providers and persons with autism and their families. My Department has no plans at present to establish a task force, but will continue to work, as outlined above, to enhance the level of support available to persons with autism and their families.
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