Geoffrey Cox votes 'yes' for landmark Autism Bill

Geoffrey Cox hailed a important victory for more half a million children and adults in the UK with autistic spectrum disorders on Friday, after a landmark debate in which MPs voted to take the Autism Bill through to its next stage.


Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon hailed a important victory for more half a million children and adults in the UK with autistic spectrum disorders on Friday, after a landmark debate in which MPs voted to take the Autism Bill through to its next stage. The MP has campaigned strongly in parliament to gain better provision for those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and remained in the chamber throughout the day to support and vote the Bill through to its committee stage.

Fridays are reserved for private members bills in the House of Commons and may fail if insufficient numbers of MPs do not stay to support them instead of returning to their constituencies. Government MPs threatened to "talk the bill out" by speaking until the allotted time for the Bill expired but, in the end, the Bill's supporters were able to move a "closure" motion that forced a vote before time ran out.

The Private Members Bill, which was drafted by the National Autistic Society and taken forward by Conservative MP, Cheryl Gillan, will now move to committee stage where its commitments to improve the services available to those affected by autistic spectrum disorders can be scrutinised by MPs.

Responding to overwhelming political pressure in the House of Commons, the Government also pledged to fully support people with autism with a range of new measures.

Mr Cox said: "This is landmark victory for the thousands of people with autistic spectrum disorders and their families so many of whom feel isolated and ignored. The understanding of and provision for Autism and Asperger's syndrome is in need of substantial improvement both locally and nationally, and I am delighted that we were able to ensure that this Bill received the necessary support and to beat the attempt to talk the Bill out.

There is still a very long way to go; the job now is to hold the Government to their commitments as we enter the Bill's committee stage. Nevertheless, Friday's vote is the first step towards ending the postcode lottery of services and support for ASD throughout the UK."

The autism bill makes the following key demands:

1. Improve information on the number of children and adults with autism

  • Two thirds of local authorities do not know how many children with autism there are in their area.
  • Just two local authorities know how many adults with autism there are in their area.

Without a clear idea of the numbers of people with autism in their area, local authorities will continue to exclude the needs of children and adults with autism from the planning and commissioning of services.

2. Ensure effective transition from child to adult services

  • 40% of adults with autism live at home with their parents and are heavily reliant upon them for support

Local authorities simply aren't providing adequate support or passing on the kind of information from children's to adult services that would ensure the needs of children with autism are catered for in adulthood, thus preventing them from reaching their full potential.

3. Tackle the chronic lack of support for adults with autism

  • Over three quarters of local authorities do not have an autism training strategy.

Autism is a complex and much misunderstood condition, yet very little policy or guidance specifically refers adults with the disability.

There continues to be a lack of understanding and training in autism within local authorities, often meaning adults with the condition receive inadequate support or fail to qualify for any support at all. This exclusion from support increases isolation and can escalate to mental health problems and other serious difficulties.


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