A few years ago, Ambitious about Autism produced a big report looking looked at that specifically. I am fortunate to have in my constituency an organisation called Little Gate Farm, which takes people who have finished their education and makes them work-ready. However, it requires employers to give them a chance, and I am always writing to employers urging them to do so.
Let me give some examples. One young lad was obsessed with washing cars. We matched him up with a garage, and that is exactly what he does. Someone else was given a job in a bookkeeping firm. The big challenge there is ensuring that that young person takes time off, because they have so used to the routine. The initiative has become so successful that people are throwing themselves into work. We must do all that we can, as Members of Parliament, to pair and support people.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham says that we in the APPG
“will hold the Government’s feet to the fire to see those recommendations reflected in the new strategy.
Our need to act is clear. Too many people”— as we have just discussed—
“still have to wait too long for a diagnosis—more than three years in some parts of the country. Getting a diagnosis can be a crucial milestone, helping to unlock vital support. Delays in being diagnosed can result in people developing more significant needs, or mental health problems.
National guidance from the health watchdog NICE state clearly that children or adults suspected of being on the autism spectrum should start their diagnostic assessment within three months of being referred to their local autism team. But we know there is a postcode lottery in waiting times for appointments, with many parts of the country falling far short of the three-month target. Alongside the National Autistic Society, we have been pushing progress on this issue in this very chamber for several years. Valuable research”— carried out by Norman Lamb—
“on behalf of the APPGA shone a further spotlight on these long waits and called for a mandatory minimum waiting time standard. I am pleased to have him on board again leading our inquiry on health and mental health, which heard evidence last week.
We also know that autistic people too often don’t get the physical and mental health care they need. They face high levels of health inequality, and evidence suggests that people may die early as a result, which has been highlighted by Autistica. It’s vital that all health and care staff receive autism training to ensure that our health service meets their needs and makes the changes and adjustments that it needs to—a key part of the Autism Act. I welcome the Government’s current proposals on mandatory training in autism and learning disability to all health and care staff following the dogged campaigning of Paula McGowan, a mother who tragically lost her son Oliver. It’s vital that this proposal is taken forward and that its impact is monitored. I hope the Minister will devote some time to make sure that this programme makes a difference.
I also welcome the inclusion of autism, alongside learning disability, as one of the four clinical priorities in the NHS 10-year plan to improve health services. This is a great step towards ensuring that the NHS supports autistic people as well as it supports everyone else. It sets out actions to reduce children’s diagnosis waiting times, reduce the number of autistic people inappropriately under section in mental health hospitals, and making sure that reasonable adjustments are put in place. But we need more details on how these, and other commitments in the Plan will be delivered (and how they will be funded). I would appreciate if the Minister could update the House on when we can expect to see this much-needed detail.
I am pleased to see the Government already thinking ambitiously about the future of the strategy. I warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to extending the autism strategy to include children and young people, as well as adults, for the first time.”