The first piece of legislation on autism for England moved closer to the statute books yesterday after winning government support.
Following negotiations between government officials and the National Autistic Society, ministers have agreed to place their autism strategy for adults, which is currently under consultation, on a statutory footing, giving it greater force.
In a committee debate on an NAS-drafted private member’s bill, moved by Tory MP Cheryl Gillan, care services minister Phil Hope successfully moved a series of amendments to create an alternative bill, embodying the government’s autism strategy.
The plans mirror the proposals for autistic adults in Gillan’s original and were strongly welcomed by the NAS. They would commit the government to:-
- Producing the autism strategy no later than 1 April 2010, and keeping it under review.
- Issuing guidance to secure its implementation no later than 31 December 2010. Councils and NHS trusts would be under a duty to implement the guidance unless there were exceptional reasons for not doing so.
- The guidance must cover the provision of diagnostic services, the identification of adults with autism, assessments of need, service planning, transition planning for young people, staff training and leadership.
NAS ‘absolutely delighted’
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.”
Gillan said: “The minister has gone further than I or the National Autistic Society and the 14 other charities that have been advising me have asked for. He has met their needs and demands at every step of the way”.
Her bill also contained proposed duties on councils to collect and provide information on the number of children with autism in their areas and consider their needs.
The government has promised to address these issues through guidance on children and young people’s plans which will be brought in under the current Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill.
The Autism Bill will have its third reading in the House of Commons on 19 June, when it is likely to be voted through for consideration by the House of Lords.
Phil Hope rejects Tory bid to strengthen autism services