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House of Commons marks Autism Awareness Week

It was heartening to read this transcript of a debate which took place in the Commons on 29th March .

(If you have the time, please have read – it is not that long)

It was initiated by Dame Cheryl Gillan, Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham:

“I beg to move, That this House
notes that World Autism Awareness Week 2018 runs from 26 March to 2 April;
believes that there is a lack of understanding of the needs of autistic people and their families;
and calls on the Government to improve the support provided to autistic children in school and to autistic adults in or seeking employment, to reduce waiting times for autism diagnosis, and to promote a public awareness campaign so people can make the changes necessary for the UK to become autism-friendly.”

This was a significant debate. Many MPs have clearly been affected by personal experience of autism within their own family or circle of friends; or by their efforts to support and represent constituents affected by autism. Speakers included members of several All Party Parliamentary Groups, and notably the Chairs of  various Select Committees.

The spectrum of issues covered in a relatively short debate reflected how autism affects every aspect of life: diagnosis, care and support, education, housing, transition planning, employemnt, physical and mental health, benefits and assessments, the criminal justice system…

Throughout the debate, Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State at  the Department of Health and Social Care, spoke for the government. She acknowledged the depth and complexity of the problems faced by people on the autistic spectrum. She stated that she had recently chaired the first annual accountability meeting, reviewing the governments national autism strategy, attended by representatives  from all the relevant government departments, not only the Department of Health and Social Care, but also  the Department for Transport, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and the Home Office.

She concluded “We all want to live in a world and in a country where autism is never a barrier to the opportunity afforded to others. World Autism Awareness Week enables us to continue keeping this issue high on the agenda and in the minds of policy makers, professionals and members of the public alike, which is where it should be.”

 

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