Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
It is a pleasure to follow Judith Cummins. I want to speak about autism and what the Government might do to improve outcomes and reduce health inequalities for people with autism in Peterborough and across the UK.
My interest in the subject stems from speaking directly with constituents, on the doorstep, who tell me about their experiences. I have joined the all-party parliamentary group on autism and support the National Autistic Society’s efforts to raise awareness of the condition.
Debates in Peterborough City Council chamber might not regularly excite hon. Members, but I hope that the House will indulge me just this once, because I am excited that councillors in Peterborough will tonight discuss a motion on autism tabled by the excellent Conservative councillor for Bretton, Chris Burbage. The motion will commit the council to engage with health and social care organisations, education, the police, charities, and people with autism and their families and carers, as well as with me and my hon. Friend Mr Vara, in drafting an autism strategy.
I am proud of Peterborough and proud of the charities Autism Peterborough and the Enabling Independence Service, both of which I shall soon meet. I also want to mention my constituent, Nazreen Bibi, who cemented my interest in this area. She has done wonderful work and, despite standing to be a Labour party councillor in Peterborough in 2018, knows how we can work together for better outcomes for patients.
It is worth briefly reminding hon. Members what autism is. It is a lifelong development disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Not everyone’s brain works the same way. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently from other people. They are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or a disease, and it cannot be cured. Often, people feel that being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity. Autism is much more common than most people think, with around 700,000 people in the UK having this condition.
I want to focus my remaining remarks on getting an accurate diagnosis of autism, because that helps people, and their families, partners, employers, colleagues, teachers and friends, to understand why they might experience certain difficulties. It also helps them to get access to support services.
The Autism Act 2009 is over 10 years old. We have made considerable progress since that legislation was passed, but the APPG on autism has listed a series of recommendations on how the Government might do more in this area. I am confident that this Government will rise to the challenge on autism, and I ask Ministers to consider closely the APPG report and act on the recommendations within it.