My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I know how much he campaigns to deliver the solution he talks about because I am fortunate enough to share an office with him. He is a great champion of his constituents, and it is welcome news that more schools will be funded. The Minister will have heard his powerful pitch for his constituency. I can also reassure all Members that I am only temporarily sitting in for my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham; she will continue to be the chairman of the all-party group. I will now make progress, as I know others wish to speak.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham continues:
“For many families of autistic children, securing the right support for their child at school is a very difficult task—much harder than it should be. I am sure we have all been contacted by constituents who are struggling to get the school provision and support their autistic children need—this may be a place at a specialist school, or support to enable them to thrive and make progress in a mainstream school…
There’s one other very important issue that I want to draw to the attention of the House and the Minister. That is the continued inclusion of autism in the Mental Health Act as a mental disorder.
What this means is that autistic people and those with a learning disability—particularly those who have behaviour that is described as ‘challenging’—can be detained under the Act when they do not have a treatable mental illness. When this is twinned with a lack of appropriate support, particularly crisis support, to prevent someone being admitted to hospital, we see the numbers of autistic people in these hospitals increase.”
I would like the Government to address that challenge and issue.
I will conclude—I have failed to deliver my right hon. Friend’s entire speech, but she will be delighted that we have had a debate about this and raised awareness, so I finish on the following note. She says:
“Autistic people—children and adults—need the right support, at the right time, in their local communities. The wider community needs to have a much better understanding of what autism is and how it affects people. There are things that all of us can do to make our society a more inclusive place for everyone—in World Autism Awareness Week and beyond”,
that should be our goal.