Schoolchildren with Autism

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 2018.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 12:00 am, 29th January 2018

What progress his Department has made on supporting children with autism at school.

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

It is clearly incredibly important that autistic children are well supported in their education. We have funded the Autism Education Trust since 2012 to deliver autism awareness training to education staff in early years, school and further education.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

I thank the Minister for his reply. We look forward to welcoming the Secretary of State on Wednesday, when the all-party group on autism, co-chaired by me and my hon. Friend Huw Merriman, launches its education report. Will the Minister commit to implementing the recommendations of our report, so that we can improve the educational experience for children with autism in this country?

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I wholeheartedly welcome the report, and I know that the Secretary of State is visiting my hon. Friend and her colleagues on Wednesday, as she said. I look forward to meeting and discussing the report fully with them.

Photo of Ruth George Ruth George Labour, High Peak

My county of Derbyshire is about to cut almost £3 million from children’s services, including almost £400,000 from special needs and disability services to support children. Schools are already struggling, so how on earth will these cuts help, and how will the Government ensure that support for special needs children is improved?

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

No local authority needs to cut those services. There is actually over £9 billion being invested in children’s services because, as in the case of Hackney, for example, it is seen as a priority, so there is no reason for a local authority to do that.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)

I, too, welcome the Minister to his place. The healthy pupils fund was designed to help pupils with a range of health needs. The Department promised to protect the fund in full but has cut it, leaving a £200 million gap between income from the sugar levy and its spending commitments. Can the Minister explain why he is content to see funding in this area slashed, and will he guarantee that there will be no more cuts?

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Not only is the Department spending the £275 million from the sugar levy; we are going over and above that. We are spending over £400 million on making sure that students are healthy.