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Cross-party meeting to collaborate on autism

Cross-party meeting to collaborate on autism

Labour's spokesperson for Disabilities Issues Carmel Sepuloni says she is pleased to be hosting tonight's first cross-party briefing addressing challenges and future prospects for people living with autism in New Zealand.

"40,000 New Zealanders currently live with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This has a direct impact on at least another 200,000 whanau and immediate community members. Tonight's meeting is about making sure that as Members of Parliament we are playing our part in making sure they are supported to cope and achieve their potential," Carmel Sepuloni said.

"Recently we've seen chief advocacy body Autism New Zealand face funding cuts with their Waikato branch having to close its doors to hundreds of service users.

"We cannot afford to let this become a sign of things to come, or allow for this situation to be used as a political football during an election year," Carmel Sepuloni said.

"Funding cuts have prompted a much larger and more urgent discussion on the way New Zealand caters to and supports people living with ASD.

"New Zealand has a reputation as a world leader in in this field, with the development of the 2008 New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guidelines, on the back of the 2001 New Zealand Disability Strategy, but funding constraints threaten this progress.

"Tonight's cross-party meeting will spearhead engagement in a more collaborative way in order to realise some of the goals of these two documents.

"Issues facing the autistic community are complex and sit across the jurisdiction of multiple MPs and multiple portfolio areas. Tonight is an important step to ensure all parties are included in the discussion.

"The UK is a prime example of how this can work with its All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism. I'm sure that New Zealand is able to be just as progressive if not more so in developing better tools for policy development.

"We are hoping that tonight's meeting will be the start of a fruitful discussion about how we can move forward, across parties, in order to seek positive outcomes for peoples with ASD," Carmel Sepuloni said.

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