Down Syndrome Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 4th February 2022.

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Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby 1:46 pm, 4th February 2022

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Dr Fox. As a newbie and a Back Bencher I still cannot quite believe that I am in the same place as him. This is a truly landmark Bill, and it has been fantastic to learn from him how such a Bill can be formed to make a real difference in human beings’ lives.

I am chair of the apprenticeship diversity champions network, and one of our aims is to get more people with learning difficulties and disabilities into apprenticeships and long-term work. The Bill will help to get employers to understand that people with Down syndrome are very able to work in their workplaces. After this debate, in National Apprenticeship Week next week, I will write to the top 100 apprenticeship providers to say that they need to think about employing more people who have Down syndrome and who have learning difficulties and disabilities more widely.

I do hate the term “disabilities”. It should be “differences” or “diversities”, because everybody can do some things and not others. I have felt for a long time that the word “disability” does a disservice to our fellow human beings. I feel blessed that, as I was growing up, my mother retrained as a social worker. She went to university, while she was working full time as a catering manager, to become an assistant social worker and went on to become a fully qualified one.

My mother specialised in learning difficulties and disabilities, so in my teenage years I had lots of discussions with her and learned about the different types of disabilities. She was and still is passionate about people with difficulties and disabilities having as full and independent lives as possible, which I have taken to heart and always thought about. We all want to be independent and to have fruitful and enjoyable lives, including work lives. If employers are watching or listening to this, or reading about it afterwards, they should start to think about taking on people who have Down syndrome, because they can add a fantastic extra dimension.