Down Syndrome Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:40 am on 26th November 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 11:40 am, 26th November 2021

I am grateful for that intervention. Members on both sides of the House share a commitment and an ambition to make significant advances in the mental health of the British people. We know that there are barriers for people with the most profound physical health conditions because, traditionally, we have not looked beyond those conditions to evaluate the mental health aspect. I hope that the Bill is a good opportunity to do that.

On housing, we know that with the right support, people with Down’s syndrome can live semi-independently, so we must make sure that the right type of housing, sensitive to need, is available and distributed across the country. Has the Minister made a baseline assessment of where we are and what we might need to do better?

Hon. Members have made important points about education. At the risk of repeating more of what the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said, the points about education, health and care plans were well made and I hope that they were heard. I took from his contribution that they cannot be pro forma exercises; they must be individual exercises that meet individual needs. That is the purpose of having them.

Linked to that, on employment, only 6% of people with a learning disability in this country are in employment. We should aspire to do much better. Work gives purpose, independence and dignity, and is part of the collective investment that we make in each other. Our ambition is for everybody to be in work who can be, irrespective of their challenges. We need a full strategic plan on the active steps that we can take to show employers the benefits of hiring staff with learning disabilities and the support that can be offered to help to facilitate that. It is important to understand that it is a win-win because, as global studies show, workplaces hiring employees who live with Down’s syndrome are happy and productive.

The right hon. Member for North Somerset made the point about redress, which is an important and live conversation in this country. To read across, if I may, to the Cumberlege report and the impact of sodium valproate and Primodos on children who are born having been exposed to them, those families still cannot get redress—in many cases, many decades later—without an expensive, long and hard pursuit in the courts. That system is not working. The report recommended that a redress system be set up to avoid that, which has not happened as the Government have not accepted the recommendation. It should not be happening to them and it should not happen here, so I hope that, through the Bill, we can do better for people living with Down’s syndrome and for others.