Landmark victory for autism campaigners23rd February 2009
The National Autistic Society (NAS) is celebrating a crucial win for the half a million children and adults with autism in the UK. In response to political pressure from Cheryl Gillan MP’s Autism Bill, the government announced a new raft of measures that when fully implemented could help to address the shocking lack of autism services which leaves people affected by the condition feeling isolated, ignored and often at breaking point.
Cheryl Gillan MP said; “It was critically important to me that my Private Members’ Bill should cover an area that ordinarily would be overlooked –today’s announcement is a testament to the weight of support from my colleagues and autism campaigners. Without the right help autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect, so I will keep campaigning until I hear the Government pledge to fully support people affected by autism in Parliament. The real test will be in how they implement this package of measures in the long term.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS said; “The failure of many local authorities to recognise the needs of people with autism made it absolutely necessary to try and create an autism law. Today, thanks to the overwhelming level of support galvanised by Cheryl Gillan MP’s Autism Bill from our campaigners, across all the political parties and the 15 other autism charities we have been working with; we have achieved our major political goals. This is a landmark victory which could also have a far wider reaching impact on others in the disabled community. We warmly welcome the announcement and look forward to hearing the Government categorically reaffirm their commitment to transforming the lives of people affected by autism when the bill is debated in Parliament on the 27th February.”
Proposals announced by the Government respond to demands made by Cheryl Gillan’s Autism Bill which will, when fully introduced, hold local authorities legally accountable if they do not provide appropriate support for children and adults with autism.
Mark Lever added; “The NAS would like to thank Cheryl Gillan MP, the 6,000 people who emailed their MP and all the MPs who pledged their support for the bill.”
Measures outlined should :
Improve local information on the number of children and adults with autism and ensure effect transition to adult services
The majority of local authorities do not have a clear idea of the numbers of people with autism in their area, which therefore means their needs are excluded in the planning and commissioning of services. The Government’s proposed amendments to the regulations for Children and Young People’s Plans will legally require local authorities to collate and share data and information on disabled children with other agencies. This could see a huge sea change in the way the needs of children with disabilities, including autism, are recognised and met and ensure that there are services in place to help them reach their potential in adulthood. 40% of adults with autism currently live at home with their parents and are heavily reliant on them for support.
Tackle the chronic lack of support for adults with autism
Research for the NAS I Exist campaign found that at least 1 in 3 adults with autism are experiencing mental health difficulties due to a lack of support. In response the Government committed to publishing a national adult autism strategy later this year. In a crucial development, as of today, this will now also place legal duties (subject to the necessary consultation process) on local authorities to address the barriers to support faced by adults with autism. The way in which adults with autism receive services at ground level could also be dramatically improved as there should be regional and local leadership in place to deliver the strategy. The government will also work to ensure that Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (the main tool commissioners use to inform service planning and commissioning strategies) cover autism.
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