Landmark autism law passed today

22 Oct

The Autism Bill passed its final stage in the House of Lords today to become England’s first ever disability-specific law. The National Autistic Society (NAS) heralded the new law as ‘groundbreaking’ and said health and social care services could now face legal action if they failed to provide support for people with the condition, which affects over half a million people in the UK. The Autism Bill started out as a Private Members’ Bill drafted by the NAS on behalf of a coalition of autism charities and was championed through Parliament by Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan. It has had support from all parties.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said:

“Thousands of adults with autism told us they were experiencing serious mental health difficulties due to a lack of support. After a year of lobbying, this is the watershed moment they have been waiting for – this law could literally transform lives. It will add serious weight to the forthcoming adult autism strategy so now we’ll be keeping the pressure up on Government to make sure they get it right and deliver lasting change for people with this serious, lifelong and disabling condition.”

“I’d like to thank everyone for their support. It is extremely rare that a Private Members’ Bill goes on to become law, so this is a triumph for people with autism and their families. It’s a real testament to the overwhelming level of parliamentary support for this chronically excluded group. I hope it will make the crucial difference in their lives that people with autism need and deserve. We’d like to thank Cheryl Gillan MP and the thousands of autism campaigners, MPs and peers for their support – together we have made legal history.”

Once it receives Royal Assent the Bill will officially become the Autism Act. Under the new law the Government’s forthcoming adult autism strategy will be legally enforceable and must be published within the next six months. New responsibilities the NHS and local authorities will be expected to fulfil will include providing diagnostic services for adults with autism and better training for health and social care staff.

The NAS is also calling for the strategy to tackle the woeful number of people with autism in employment. New research for the charity’s Don’t Write Me Off campaign, launched last week, found that a third of people with autism – that’s over 100,000 – currently live without a job and worryingly without benefits.

The Autism Act was backed by

  • The National Autistic Society,
  • Wirral Autistic Society,
  • Autism Research Centre,
  • TreeHouse,
  • Hampshire Autistic Society,
  • Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society,
  • Research Autism,
  • Autism Anglia,
  • The Wessex Autistic Society,
  • Autism Education Trust,
  • Autism Speaks,
  • Autism West Midlands,
  • Autism in Mind,
  • Autism Initiatives,
  • Sussex Autistic Community Trust
  • Tyne and Wear Autistic Society.

I hope everyone will join with me in congratulating the NAS and their partner organizations and all their supporters who have campaigned and lobbied to make this possible.

15 Responses to “Landmark autism law passed today”

  1. NightStorm October 22, 2009 at 19:57 #

    I kinda lol’d at Autspks backing a bill supporting autistic adults.

  2. Mike Stanton October 22, 2009 at 20:18 #

    Autism Speaks UK is not in the same as its US cousin and Steve Shirley is not Bob Wright. She knows about autistic adults. Her autistic son, Giles, died aged 35 in 1998. Dame Shirley has through the Shirley foundation committed £35 million to autism projects and her foundation is funding Autism Speaks UK until 2012.

  3. NightStorm October 22, 2009 at 21:47 #

    Ah I see, I didn’t know this. So AutspksUK a different animal than AutSpksUS? That it has a different platform than the pro-cure and anti-vax bull than the American version?

  4. Mike Stanton October 22, 2009 at 22:09 #

    Autism speaks UK funds research into biomedical causes and treatments. It is not necessarily pro-cure but it is not anti-cure either. Also biomedical does not mean DAN quackery. they are definitely not anti-vax. They fund real science. How relevant that science is to autism as it is lived I do not know. But I expect a certain Laurentius Rex will turn up in the comments any time to give his perspective.

  5. Corina Becker October 23, 2009 at 05:23 #

    Congrads on the Autism Bill and soon-to-be Autism Act!

    course, the question is whether we get the equivalent over here.

    Gotta question though, about Autism Speaks; What about Autism Speaks Canada? From what I can tell from the website, it ain’t as shiny-done as the US site and other than the occasional walk, doesn’t seem too active.

  6. Mike Stanton October 23, 2009 at 08:34 #

    I cannot help you with Autism Speaks Canada. If it is like the UK set upthen It is based on partnership with a local autism charity. But as the Canadian scene seems dominated by the movement towards normalization via intensive early intervention I would expect their version of Autism Speaks to look south of the border for inspiration and leadership from their American big brother. Not so shiny-done seems a very apt way of putting it.

  7. Irene Burton October 23, 2009 at 08:56 #

    Not going to get into a debate about the finer details of who backed the Autism Bill, just want to congratulate everyone involved in getting it through parliament, well done. Now, can we all roll our sleeves up and get behind the Don’t Write Me Off campaign?

  8. Corina Becker October 23, 2009 at 15:05 #

    Ah, thanks Mike. That’s what I was thinking when I looked at the site, but there wasn’t a lot of information.

    The Employment and Support Allowance, from what it sounds like, reminds me of the Ontario Disability Support Program I’m on. The main goal of it is to support people with disabilities while trying to get them in the workforce as quickly as possible. At least, that’s what it feels like from my experience. Yet, I want to get a diploma for a job I think I’d be good at and will excel in, and I’m not supported for that, just basic needs. I guess I will have to apply for financial aid through the institutions.


    The Don’t Write Me Off campaign sounds excellent. I’m trying to figure out how to support it from my end of across the ocean, so I think that I shall link to it on my blogs.

  9. Patrick October 23, 2009 at 16:42 #

    My thanks to all parties involved with creation and continued work on this bill. We need more definitive actions like this from the lawmakers in the U.S. and I hope this passage is noted by them. I realize this won’t fix things overnight, but the needs it will be helping to address are serious for those who are currently undersupported.

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    I kinda lol’d at Autspks backing a bill supporting autistic adults.

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