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Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for the future role of the External Reference Group on autism strategy following the submission of its report to his Department. (307321)

The External Reference Group (ERG) has made an invaluable contribution to the development of the autism strategy and we look forward to continuing to work with them in the delivery of that strategy.

Consultation with the ERG is a vital part of the development process, we will be looking for them to comment on the draft strategy, as well as discuss how the recommendations from the ERG report will be taken forward.

We will also be looking for their input into the communications plan for the launch and dissemination of the strategy, and the consultation on guidance for commissioners and providers, due in late 2010.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to ensure that the implementation of New Horizons will help meet the needs of people with autism who also have mental health problems. (307310)

The New Horizons document recognises that there are many social groups who either engage less well with services or those who are at higher risk of developing mental health problems and of social exclusion.

The needs of people with mental health conditions who also have other issues such as those with a learning disability or autism will be further addressed as part of the developing programme of work.

“Valuing People Now” sets out the importance of enabling people with learning disabilities who have mental health support needs to get the appropriate assessment and treatment they require delivered in the right place. In particular, they need to be able to access mainstream mental health services. Strategic health authorities, primary care trusts and providers need to ensure that they commission services and develop care pathways that address the needs of people with learning disabilities who also have mental health support needs.

The Department is currently drafting a strategy for adults with autistic spectrum condition and will seek to ensure that this work is closely aligned to “New Horizons”.

Copies of both documents have already been placed in the Library.