Autism bill clears Commons hurdle


The prospect of England’s first autism-specific legislation moved a big step closer after a private member’s bill passed its third Commons reading.
Cheryl Gillan MP’s autism bill received government backing during its committee stage and now includes the government’s planned autism strategy, which is being consulted on.
The bill also includes 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.
Government amendments to the bill mean the autism strategy will be published by 1 April 2010, with guidance issued to councils and NHS bodies by the end of 2010.
The bill also imposes a vital statutory duty on councils and NHS bodies to follow the guidance.
Gillan told fellow MPs that adults with autism “deserve the legal footing that could flow from this legislation”.
She added: “Adults with autism are much more likely to experience mental health problems, bullying and unemployment, and to be reliant on family or the state for support.
“We must put that right, so that the needs of people with autism receive proper attention.”
Ann Keen, a junior health minister, said: “I believe that the autism strategy will improve the lives of people living with autism and their families through the key priorities of health, social inclusion, including employment and housing, choice and control, and training and awareness-raising.”
The bill will now be debated in the Lords, where it received its first reading on 22 June.
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society (NAS), which drafted the original bill on behalf of a coalition of charities, said: “It’s hugely exciting that we are on the brink of a landmark piece of legislation, which could transform the lives of the thousands of people affected by autism who have been isolated and ignored for far too long.”
The consultation on the autism strategy closes on 15 September. To find out how to take part, visit

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