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Volume 512: debated on Tuesday 29 June 2010

We are committed to addressing the health care needs of people with autism and are fully supportive of “Fulfilling and rewarding lives: the strategy for adults with autism in England”. Consultation on statutory guidance for health and social care bodies to support the strategy will begin shortly.

May I thank the Minister for that reply? We have all been inspired by the parents of children with autism. One thing that they depend on perhaps more than anything is respite care. That provision has improved in the past few years, but with the pressure on budgets, will the Minister do all he can to ensure that respite care does not become an easy target for cuts, given the importance of the service to parents of children with autism?

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. He is right; carers are a valuable and valued resource. They make an incredible difference to the quality of life of the people for whom they care. The Government are determined, as we have outlined in the coalition programme for government, to develop respite services further and make them available through direct payments for those people.

Given the success of central Government in persuading child and adolescent mental health services to take the needs of those with learning difficulties more seriously, will the Minister commit to doing the same for those with autism, given that only 11% of CAMHS have specialist provision? Will he make a commitment to do the same thing for those with autism, please?

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. We shall be getting some guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in a year’s time, and absolutely the answer is yes.

May I congratulate the Minister on his new role. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) mentioned, carers of people with autism rely on respite care. However, carers organisations are reporting that cuts to local authority funding are already leading to cuts in funding for charities and other providers of support care. How do the Government plan to deliver the promised increase in access to respite care through improved community support provision, when that is already starting to fall away?

The hon. Lady makes an important point, but perhaps she will be a little cautious with her question, not least because the previous Government made a lot of promises to carers in respect of the amounts of money that were to be invested, only for carers to find that on the ground the money was not delivering changes in services. So this Government are determined to ensure that we not only make promises but deliver on them. That is the commitment that this Government have made.