Autism bill moves step nearer to becoming law


A private member’s bill that aims to improve services for adults with autism has cleared another important parliamentary hurdle.
The autism bill received its second reading in the House of Lords on 10 July.
The bill has already passed the necessary stages in the Commons, after being introduced there by the Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan.
Baroness Pitkeathley, the Labour peer who introduced the bill in the Lords, said it was “modest in its aspirations, but it will certainly not be modest in the effect it has on the lives of those with whom it is concerned”.
The bill received government backing during its Commons committee stage, and now includes various government measures.
These include duties for the government to introduce an adult autism strategy for England by April 2010, and guidance for councils and NHS bodies by the end of 2010.
The guidance will include measures to strengthen information about the number of people with autism and their needs; improve the planning of services as children move to adulthood; and ensure better access to services for adults with autism.
The bill also includes a vital statutory duty on councils and NHS bodies to follow the guidance.
Baroness Verma, the Conservative peer, said research suggests that “not only is there a failure to support and understand children with autism, but that this gets progressively worse as they grow up”.
She added: “This is a story of exclusion and alienation that leads to unacceptable outcomes.”
She said the success of the strategy and guidance would depend on how well they were implemented.
No date has yet been set for the next stage of the bill.
A consultation on the autism strategy closes on 15 September. To find out how to take part, visit
13 July 2009