Neurodiversity in London

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 6th June 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Will you work with businesses and experts in the field to ensure London leads the way on being Neurodiversity friendly?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Ensuring that London is an accessible and inclusive city in line with the social model of disability is very important to me as Mayor. Neurodiverse people have many strengths that should be recognised and celebrated. However, I know there are many individuals across London who are excluded and disabled by inaccessible employment, transport and education systems. Overcoming these barriers requires action across a range of different areas.

Transport for London (TfL) has specific objectives to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of London’s transport network. As part of this, it is rolling out disability equality training to staff with specific modules on supporting neurodiverse customers and developing the first set of guidance on standards for the design of the built environment that considers the needs of neurodiverse people.

I have supported schools to have a greater understanding of neurodiversity through my Inclusive Education Toolkit. Through the Adult Education Budget I have made provision for teachers and staff to be upskilled to better support neurodiverse learners.

Employers can also help close the disability employment gap by making the world of work more accessible for neurodiverse Londoners. My Good Work Standard requires employers to look at reasonable adjustment policies that consider the needs of all their current and future staff. This is an area where it is important to lead by example, and I am proud that we at the Greater London Authority (GLA) have adopted neurodiversity‑friendly policies. Working with our disabled staff network, we have developed a strong workplace adjustment policy which helps to address barriers neurodiverse staff face in the workplace. Staff training includes case studies on neurodiversity and all staff have access to a neurodiversity toolkit. The Steps into Work programme we run with TfL helps neurodiverse students aged 16 or over to get into the world of work.

Throughout all these work areas and others, it will be vital to engage with those who have lived experience and professional expertise, as well as officer engagement with national charities and user‑led organisations focused on neurodiversity. My Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice holds a quarterly forum for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations to ensure their views and experiences inform the design and delivery of my policies and programmes. The London Recovery Board will soon launch its action plan to tackle structural inequality. We have ensured that there will be ample opportunities for individuals and organisations with expertise on neurodiversity to play a part in the delivery of this work.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

With approximately one in ten individuals estimated to be neurodivergent in the population at large in Greater London, that means there are approximately 900,000 Londoners with neurodivergent conditions. One‑tenth of those are possibly autistic, about 88,000, and with just 16% of autistic adults being in paid work this means that around 74,000 autistic people in London are not in paid employment. While there is limited information about other neurodivergent conditions in employment data, there are general estimates that suggest nationally up to only 20% of neurodivergent individuals are in employment. This means that there are potentially as many as 700,000 people in Greater London who are available to work if they have the right support.

Neurodiversity in Business launched in Parliament in March [2022] with over 100 organisations committed to building neuro‑inclusive workplaces, including most of London’s largest corporates. Will you, Mr Mayor, meet with this forum and agree how London can lead the world to improve acceptance of neurodiversity?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I would love to. Thank you for raising the points the way you raised them, Assembly Member Boff. I am more than happy to. Your figures are stark; in fact, my figures are even starker than yours, I had one in five.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I am grateful to you for raising those points, Andrew. I am more than happy to not just meet with the group but I would also, if you have the time, suggest that Dr Debbie Weekes‑Bernard [Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice], who has done lots of work on this ‑‑ we are launching very soon the Structural Inequalities Action Plan and any advice you have would be appreciated. Just to reassure you though, we do meet the specialist groups both in London and across the country. I am more than happy to meet Neurodiversity in Business for the obvious reasons you have suggested. It is a no‑brainer. I also love your point about London being a world leader. I think we should be a world leader in this area, particularly as we have Londoners with huge potential that is not being tapped.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

In order to achieve that aim, Mr Mayor, the Assembly, back in February 2020, unanimously agreed that you should develop an all‑age Londonwide autism strategy to be included in your Health Inequalities Strategy. What is happening to that?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

We have gone further than that. I looked again at the report that you talked about in preparation for Mayor’s Question Time. Hopefully you will welcome the Structural Inequalities Action Plan. There are 14 separate actions in there on the theme of labour market equality. Once you have had a chance to look at that, which is out imminently ‑ I do not want to give a date away in case it is wrong ‑ if there are still issues that you think are missing, I am more than happy to look at what more work we need to do.

To reassure you, Assembly Member Boff, the work that you will see the fruits of with the Action Plan is not just City Hall, that is working across London, it is the voluntary and community sector, it is councils, it is the private sector, but it is also the GLA functional bodies as well: TfL, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), and so forth.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

That told me what you are doing but it did not talk about the strategy. What strategy is there? This was a specific request of the Assembly. The reason, as an Assembly, we requested that there be a specific strategy on neurodiversity, not just lumped in with other conditions, is that we feel it could be lost amongst the other conditions. Where is the strategy? Are you going to have an autism strategy or a neurodiversity strategy?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I think the concern ‑ again, this is one of the reasons I am more than happy for you to meet with Dr Debbie Weekes‑Bernard ‑ is that neurodiversity is a small part of the social model of disabilities we are seeking to address, addressing physical, cognitive and sensory impairments that Londoners have. I think the concern was that a narrow strategy just on neurodiversity would not do justice to all the other social models of disability. Again, once you have had a chance to see the Action Plan, which is the strategy, if you like, and what it means in implementation, if you are still unhappy, again, I am more than happy ‑‑ it is not a closed door, just to reassure you. I am more than happy, if you think there are more things that can be added to the strategy, to discuss those with you. I think you will welcome the Action Plan.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

When will we see that Action Plan?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

In typical civil service speak, very soon. Can I get back to you today to give you privately the exact date? You will appreciate that dates change but I will give you privately the date I have been told. My briefing says “shortly”, “very soon”.