Autism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 29th March 2018.

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Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health) 1:56 pm, 29th March 2018

That sounds like an absolutely wonderful initiative, and I hope that it is rolled out to many more organisations. We should all be working with local business communities to champion the potential of people with autism in the workplace. They have great skills to offer and should certainly be given the opportunity to be part of our workforce.

Before I finish, I want to touch on mental health and criminal justice. The last such debate that I took part in in the Chamber was about people who have not only autism, but mental health issues. That is extremely important; it is another reason why they should not be excluded from services—they need quick access as a priority. The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that those on the autistic spectrum are seven and a half times more likely to commit suicide. That is an absolutely startling statistic. If we put up barriers before people get to services and support, that figure can only rise. I ask the Minister to address access to services and the understanding of comorbidity within primary care.

On criminal justice, I recently met the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, to discuss this issue, because I feel that those on the autistic spectrum are often lost in the criminal justice system and are very vulnerable within it. They are subject to bullying and have difficulty adapting and coping in that situation. We must do all that we can, so I was pleased to meet him and discuss some issues and practices from Scotland, and to share best practice right across the United Kingdom on special witness measures, support for those going through a court process and pre-arrest. In my constituency, we have a wonderful police training college at Jackton. I spoke to Police Scotland, which assures me that all its officers have undertaken mental health training and autism awareness training. That is excellent and just what is needed. We must continue to build on that.

I am pleased to speak in this debate, but the more I speak about autism, the more I realise how much more work we have to do. I am pleased to be moving forward on a cross-party basis. I will always be a champion for autism in my constituency and I like to work with like-minded Members across the House, of whom there are many and of whom I am very proud.