After 9 months of consultation, the French government announced its National Autism Strategy on the 6 April 2018. A total of 344 million euros will be set aside for the strategy between 2018 and 2022. It proposes around a hundred measures in order for France to “catch up” with other countries.
The strategy, presented by the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the Secretary of State for People with Disabilities Sophie Cluzel, revolves around five major commitments, as stated by the French government:
- to put science back at the heart of public policy concerning autism by endowing France with research of excellence;
- to intervene as early as possible with regards to young children;
- catch up with other countries in the area of education;
- support the full citizenship of adults;
- support families and recognise their expertise.
An inter-ministerial delegate will be appointed to coordinate the actions of the relevant ministries and the high-level project team, so that autistic people can benefit quickly from outcomes of the proposed measures.
Autism-Europe’s French member associations have welcomed the direction the Strategy takes, especially concerning the desire to promote inclusive education for autistic people in order to enforce their right to education, as well as favouring diagnosis and early intervention. They also consider it essential to promote an approach based on scientific evidence in accordance with the recommendations of the French High Authority of Health, in particular to combat the prevalence of the psychoanalytic approach to autism in the country.
However, they also expressed their deep concern about the budget allocated for its implementation, which was considered insufficient in view of the Strategy’s ambition. They underlined, for example, that adequate financial resources had to be dedicated to ensuring support for autistic adults, a group that constitutes the majority of France’s autistic population. These concerns were relayed by the Director of Autism-Europe, Aurélie Baranger, during an interview with France 24, on April 6, before the announcement of the plan by the Prime Minister:
The Autism Strategy in France follows three successive Plans. The first Plan was initiated after France was condemned by the Council of Europe for its failure to respect autistic people’s right to education, in response to the collective complaint brought by Autism-Europe.