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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 8th October 2008.

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Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education) 10:30 am, 8th October 2008

I absolutely concur. We cannot ever debate special educational needs without making that point, because it is crucial.

I welcome the fact that SENCOs are now to be fully qualified teachers. Another recommendation by the Education Select Committee, as it was then, was that the SENCO should be a member of the senior management team. If a SENCO is to be able to pass on and encourage good practices, it is vital that they have a certain status in the school and a position in the pecking order.

Thirdly, we talk about one in 100 children having autism, but let us look around and consider who is affected. The parents are affected, as are the grandparents, the wider family and the neighbours, so many people are touched by autism. That brings me to support for the family. The hon. Member for Buckingham made this point well when he asked what happens when a child gets home. That is vital. We talk about the costs of the lack of early intervention, but if we do not put in that support to prevent family breakdown, we have even more tragedies and great costs.

As my hon. Friend John Barrett said, we must also be aware of what happens after the school years. My caseload seems to be getting ever bigger in respect of elderly parents with adult offspring with learning disabilities who are finding it so difficult to get enough support. My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion mentioned the cradle-to-grave approach, which sounds excellent, and the autism ambassador. It sounds as though we have a lot to learn.

Finally, we should be celebrating the good practice—there are some amazing examples around—but we must have ambitions for every child with autism. The 2009 review, which will be led by Ofsted, will be crucial. I hope that there will be a big input into the terms of reference, because the Government have delayed taking some actions because of that study. We have to get it right. We need the right people carrying it out and they need the right remit.