[Mr. Martin Caton in the Chair] — Children and Young People with Autism

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:06 am on 8th October 2008.

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Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet 10:06 am, 8th October 2008

Absolutely. I would add that, if we can achieve greater awareness of autism in our nursery schools, we should also teach teachers and doctors to listen to mums, because it is usually mums who spot the signs of autism first but they are usually told, "Go away, you're just being a worrying mum." We should therefore improve the system so that we are actually listening to mums when they raise these concerns.

Finally, the Department for Education and Skills, the predecessor of the Department for Children, Schools and Families, published a best practice guide for autism a few years ago. In fact, two guides were produced; one for health and one for education. The one for education is particularly good and it is effectively a checklist to establish whether a local authority is really doing the things it ought to be doing to ensure that the right provision is available and that the right support is provided for parents. A local authority that has followed that best practice guide provides services at an acceptable level, so why do we not make it compulsory for Ofsted to go through that best practice guide at every inspection of a local authority and challenge it to make sure that it is living up to the guide? At the moment, it is effectively left to parents to use that guide to test their local authority, but it should be done by Ofsted, and the local authority should be forced to come up to the mark.