Prime Minister Gordon Brown

(London, UK) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has written for the first time about autism. The Prime Minister writing from Number 10 Downing Downing Street in London has told a British charity, the UK Autism Foundation that he has launched a series of initiatives to help families and people with autism.

Parents and carers Ivan and Charika Corea have been campaigning long and hard on autism since 2000 with the Autism Awareness Campaign UK. They initiated 2002 as Autism Awareness Year supported by 800 UK organisations. In 2008 they launched a new autism charity – the UK Autism Foundation. The charity has been campaigning specifically on behalf of families with autism who are below the poverty line. Over 200 MPs have signed three early day motions backing the UK Autism Foundation’s call for help for the poor. The EDMs were sponsored by John Battle MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty, Rudi Vis MP and David Drew MP. They attracted all party support in the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown writing to Ivan Corea said:’ We are determined that people with autism and their families get the support they need and deserve, and know that without it the condition can have a devastating impact.

We are improving the quality of services provided to adults with autism by:

– publishing good practice Commissioning Guidance for the NHS and local authorities in April;

– launching a consultation on a new national strategy for autism, with the final strategy to be published by the end of the year. The strategy has four main priorities: health, social inclusion (including employment), choice and control, and training. Part of the autism strategy will look at how young people can access appropriate placements, whether that is to study, to get a paid job or to access training. It will also consider how people can be supported to live in their communities and how their needs are addressed.

– issuing statutory guidance, subject to consultation and assessment of benefits. Implementation of the strategy will be driven regionally: led by the Government Offices for the Regions and through the Valuing People Now Regional Boards (for adults with autism who have a learning disability);

– the appointment of Elaine Hill, a national adviser on autism, last October to work with key stakeholders to shape priorities for the strategy;

– determining the best way to help local authorities and other agencies gather data, assess needs and commission services for adults with autism in their area; and

– funding a study on the prevalance of autism in adults, to commence later this year.

I hope you will agree that the action the Government is already taking and will take in the coming months will prove an effective way of delivering the outcomes we all wish to see for people with autism and their families,’ said Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his letter to Ivan Corea from 10 Downing Street.

On the subject of the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day which was held on Thursday 2nd April, the Prime Minister said he would like to take the opportunity to thank the staff, supporters and volunteers in all of the organisations who have worked so hard to make World Autism Awareness Day a success.

Ivan Corea said: ‘I am delighted with the Prime Minister’s personal response on autism. This is the first time that Gordon Brown has written, outlining the Government’s intended actions on autism. Her Majesty’s Government has accomplished a great deal on autism but there is more work to be done. We really do need an end to the postcode lottery to public services – people are desperate for public services in education, health, specialist speech therapy and respite care. We need new streams of funding and the autism campaigner in the House of Commons, Lee Scott MP, has called for ring fenced funding for autism. We welcome the fact that the G20 London Summit focused on the world’s poor. The UK Autism Foundation is campaigning specifically on behalf of the poor and we thank all those who supported our call to G20 leaders to reach out to the poor. We now urge Chancellor Alistair Darling to provide real financial support for families with autism in the April 2009 Budget – by increasing the tax credits, the disability living allowance and the carer’s allowance. Things are desperate for many, many parents and carers. Fathers and mothers are losing their jobs, the homes of families with autism have been re-possessed by banks – we urge Gordon Brown to stop the re-possessions. Some families are suffering as a result of fuel poverty. Things could get worse if the recession deepens in 2009 and parents, carers, children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome will need more help and support to cope with life during this economic crisis.’

UKAF also supported Cheryl Gillan MP’s Autism Bill which goes on to the next stage in the House of Commons.

The UK Autism Foundation was a partner of the historic United Nations World Autism Awareness Day. WAAD was launched by the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the 2nd of April 2008, on the recommendation of the State of Qatar. This year, 20 UK charities urged people to ‘Stand Up for Autism,’ on World Autism Awareness Day.

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