Cheryl Gillan’s Autism Bill Passes Crucial Milestone
Article Date: 18 May 2009 – The National Autistic Society
The Government has, for the first time, declared its support for what could be England’s first Autism Bill. The National Autistic Society (NAS) celebrated the move as a vital development for people with autism as Care Services Minister Phil Hope committed to enshrining in law a raft of new measures, via the Autism Bill, which could drive a dramatic improvement in local authority and NHS services for people with the condition.
Last night, MPs voted yes to the Government’s proposed blueprint and time scales to improve support and in a major development the Care Services Minister gave the forthcoming national adult autism strategy extra force by adding it to the Autism Bill. The Bill now awaits its third reading scheduled for the 19th June and with the support of the Government is likely to pass to the House of Lords.
Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS said; “We are absolutely delighted that the Government is prepared to take decisive action to tackle the shocking lack of help which leaves people affected by autism feeling isolated, ignored and often at breaking point. The Autism Bill has passed a major and crucial hurdle on the road to becoming law but there’s still some way to go. Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition, and without the right support it can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect on individuals and families so we will keep working with the Government to ensure the Autism Bill can deliver where it is really needed.”
The Autism Bill is being championed through Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill led by Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan and was drafted by the NAS on behalf of a coalition of 15 other autism charities. She said; “I commend the Government on their commitment to transforming the lives of children and adults with autism via the support of Schools and Learners Minister, Sarah McCarthy-Fry and Care Services Minister, Phil Hope. Today is a real turning point for the thousands of people affected by autism who have been unable to get the help they desperately need and I look forward to working with the Government to make this vitally important Bill a reality.”
The Government’s measures come as the NAS I Exist campaign found that at least 1 in 3 adults with autism are experiencing serious mental health difficulties due to a lack of help. Under the Autism Bill the national adult autism strategy, due at the end of this year, will hold local authorities and NHS services legally responsible for providing support for adults with the condition and ensure they have clear routes to diagnosis, assessment and support. The NAS is, therefore, urging as many people affected by autism as possible to take part in the consultation for the strategy which closes on the 15th September.
This boost for adults with autism builds on a previous commitment by Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP to fulfill the Autism Bill’s original demands for better support for children via new regulations for Children and Young People’s Plans. In an important win for the wider disabled community these would legally require local authorities to collate and share data and information on children with disabilities with other agencies, which could see a huge sea change in disabled children’s services and ensure they get the support they need to fulfill their potential in adulthood.
The National Autistic Society (opens new window)