It is a pleasure to follow my south-west colleague, Thangam Debbonaire, in this important debate. The National Autistic Society says that there are around 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK, which is more than one in 100. This means that autism is part of daily life for around 2.8 million people, when we include their families. I therefore welcome this debate on services for people with autism, and I would like to raise two specific points in my contribution today.
First, at my surgery last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a chap called Tigger Pritchard, who is the champion for the National Autistic Society in Cornwall. He is running a great campaign to make Bodmin in my constituency the first autism-friendly town in Cornwall, following the example set by the town of Aylesbury in the constituency of my right hon. Friend Mr Lidington.
Tigger has been sending letters to businesses in Bodmin telling them of the opportunities that they have to help people with autism and their families to become less socially isolated. For example, if shops were to have a period of time in the day when they turned their music down or off, dimmed their lights, reduced till noise and developed staff knowledge of autism, people on the autistic spectrum would have more access to their services. Tigger has had a great response from businesses in Bodmin in the weeks coming up to April, which is Autism Awareness Month. My team and I will be meeting him again so that we can learn a bit more about autism. Should Bodmin manage to become an autism-friendly town, I hope that it will inspire many other communities in Cornwall and across the UK to become more autism friendly.
The second issue I would like to raise relates to the inquiry into the detention of young people with learning disabilities that is being undertaken by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member. Following the 2011 Winterbourne View abuse scandal, the Department of Health and Social Care’s policy response, “Transforming Care” declared that hospitals were not places where people should live. The “Transforming Care” policy regrettably missed its target to move those who were inappropriately placed in hospital or mental health care to community-based support no later than
I encourage people to submit written evidence to the inquiry, so that we can explore how and where we can improve services for those on the autism spectrum. I also want to take this opportunity to encourage all my colleagues in the House to use Autism Awareness Day on