Westminster News


The saying goes “Yesterday I was clever, so I changed the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” On 1st May, 82 of my Parliamentary colleagues from the House of Commons decided to change themselves and take part in the first-ever Autism Awareness Training seminar at our Westminster workplace.

Each Member of Parliament will have around 1000 people in their constituency who are on the autistic spectrum. Therefore, it’s vital for MPs to be able to understand what life can be like for autistic people and their families.

Adjustments can be made to accommodate the needs of people with what is sometimes described as an “invisible” condition. MPs learnt about the physical and communication adjustments that can be adopted so they can provide their constituents with even better services.

Ten years on from the Autism Act receiving Royal Assent - notable because it was the first ‘disability-specific’ Parliamentary legislation – I’m very pleased I had the privilege to introduce the Private Member’s Bill which brought it about. I continue now to chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism. We’re currently reviewing almost every area of Government to try and improve matters.

Over the decade there have been many advances. Staff in our prison and probation services have worked tirelessly to provide accredited schemes supporting autistic people.  Student teachers are now receiving training so they can give support to pupils when they begin work in schools. All NHS front-line staff are hopefully to be trained in autism awareness. We now have the hospital passport to help access health services with less stress. Last week, I requested that the restoration and renewal programme for Parliament includes adjustments to make our Parliament the most welcoming autism-friendly venue in the World!! There remains much to be done but we’re working on it…….

[This article first appeared in the Bucks Free Press]