The Government is committed to raising awareness and understanding of autism in line with the cross-Government autism strategy and the Autism Act 2009. On 21 March 2019, I responded to the Backbench Business Debate on autism services on behalf of the Government.
During autism awareness week 2019, I undertook a Ministerial visit on 1 April to the National Autistic Society’s Birch House Service in Godalming to meet with autistic people and carers. On 3 April, I chaired the Annual Autism Accountability meeting which reports on progress in implementing the autism strategy, ‘Think Autism’. On 4 April, my Rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care undertook a Ministerial visit to the Sycamore Trust to meet with autistic people and carers.
On 5 April 2019, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced, in an article for the Politics Home website, the development of a public autism awareness raising campaign to improve awareness and understanding of autism. The Department is working together with stakeholders including autistic people and carers to develop this. We expect the campaign will be launched by the end of the year.
Government Departments are taking forward actions and strategies to raise awareness and understanding of autism, and to adjust services to make them more accessible to autistic people. For example, these include:
- In July 2018, the Department for Transport published its, ‘Inclusive Transport Strategy: Achieving Equal Access for Disabled People’. The Department for Transport is committed to ensuring that disabled people and those with hidden impairments such as autistic people have the same access to transport and opportunities to travel as everyone else; and
- Through the Disability Confident scheme, the Department for Work and Pensions is engaging with employers, offering guidance and helping to promote the skills, talents and abilities of autistic people and associated hidden impairment conditions. Over 11,000 employers have signed up. A Disability Confident Toolkit has also been developed to provide comprehensive information on autism and hidden impairments, as well as guidance on employment and local authority services. In addition, Access to Work has a hidden impairment support team that aims to give advice and guidance to help employers support employees with conditions such as autism, learning disability and/or mental health conditions and it offers eligible people an assessment to find out their needs at work and help to develop a support plan.