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Autism Progresses in Parliament

Posted May 28 2009 10:36pm

A few weeks ago I attended the Northern Regional Forum of the National Autistic Society. The general feeling was that all those working around the private member’s bill on Autism then before Parliament had done a fantastic job. The government was talking to us and, more importantly, listening to us. The Bill of course would never become law but we could expect signficant concessions from the government in exchange for the Bill being dropped.

Instead the government proposed to delete the existing clauses in th eBill and replace them with amendments of its own covering

  • Transition Planning

  • Diagnosis

  • Identification and Assessment

  • Provision of Services

  • Training of Professionals

  • Local Authority/PCT Leadership

These amendments were acceptable to the Bill’s supporters and it will now progress through Parliament with government support. It is thus more closely focused on adult proivision. Provisions relating to children, including diagnosis, data collection and planning services will be enacted via regulations and guidance issued by the government a part of its Children and Young People’s Plan.

There is still a lot of work to be done. The government consultation that I wrote about last month is continuing and it is even more important now for people to respond.

Meanwhile, another private member’s bill from John Bercow on special educational needs that only came 19th out of 20 in a poll of MPs has failed to become law but the government has given assurances that it is making progress on meeting the commitments outlined in the Bill. The NAs was again involved in drafting the Bill and lobbying for its support.

the National Autism Society, which had worked with Bercow on the Bill, said it was satisfied that the Bill had achieved some success.

NAS policy manager Beth Reid said: “This Bill has helped to raise the profile of many important issues facing SEN children. It has put increased focus on making sure the right measures are in place to ensure they are support properly.”

However, Reid said more work was needed to bring down the high number of SEN children [whch contains a disproportionate number of autistic children] excluded from school, something Bercow’s Bill had sought to address.

This is important work. These are not grandiose schemes for combating autism, defeating autism or ramping up research efforts into possible causes and cures. But they are honest attempts to improve the lives of autistic children and adults. The NAS and its allies will continue to monitor the government response to ensure that its deeds do in fact match up to the commitments it has made in response to our campaigning.

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