Skip to main content

Education and Training (Young People with Autism)

Volume 534: debated on Tuesday 1 November 2011

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to make provision for the education and training of young people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome; to ensure that work opportunities are provided for those young people; and for connected purposes.

One of the biggest worries for parents who have children with autism, Asperger’s or any other special needs is what will happen when they are no longer here. Will the young person, when they become an adult, be able to look after themselves? Will they have gainful employment? I pay tribute both to my own Government and to the previous Government for the work that has been done to try to make headway on employment for young people suffering with autism, Asperger’s and any other special needs.

According to the National Autistic Society,

“There are more than 350,000 working age adults with autism in the UK. NAS research has found that, whilst many people with autism want to work, just 15% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment and 9% are in part-time employment.”

Research shows that 79% of people with autism on incapacity benefit want to work, but need some support to get into work and retain employment. One in three people with autism is without any financial support from employment or through the benefits system, with many reliant on their families for such support. In a study carried out by Research Autism in 2008 for NAS Prospects London on the experiences of employing people with autism, seven in 10 employers questioned had had a very positive experience of employing people with autism, Asperger’s or other related conditions, and said that they would recommend it to others.

BBC Radio York contacted me this morning about the parent of a young son with autism. The parent filled out an application form for a job and filled out another for the son. The application form requested that a box be ticked if the applicant had a disability: the form indicating no disability got the applicant an interview, whereas the applicant whose form indicated there was a disability did not. Whatever the employment climate is, and however difficult things are, people with autism are not getting a fair chance.

I want to praise an organisation called Kisharon, which runs a printers and a bicycle repair shop staffed solely by young people with autism, Asperger’s or other special needs. Together with a group called Interface, which is one of my local groups serving young people with autism, Asperger’s or any special needs, and the London borough of Redbridge, with private backing—I am sure the Treasury will be pleased to hear that, as there will be no financial impact on the Treasury—they are looking at how we take matters forward.

I have had meetings with leading companies where we plan to run a pilot scheme that will allow them to employ young people and for the young people to have training through local authorities so that they can achieve what they deserve—the best possible future. Obviously, I am not a professional and could not decide who would be suitable for what role.

I came into contact with one young man who found it difficult to interact in the workplace. An employer took this young man on, although there were difficulties. There were days when perhaps the young man took offence or had a problem with things that others may not have, but that firm took that into account and worked with that young man and he has now been there for some three years and is a valued employee. For obvious reasons, I do not intend naming him.

I also want to consider how this scheme can be rolled out. At the outset, these young people need to be assessed. We need to know what skills they have. We know only too well that many young people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome are brilliant with computers and IT, but may not have great communication skills in the workplace. There is no reason why they cannot work from a satellite centre or from home.

The scheme must be overseen, because people have to be put forward as mentors in companies to work with young people and make sure that it works out. I hope to work with my Government and with charities such as the National Autistic Society, Kisharon, Interface and many others to take this forward and to run a pilot to get young people into employment and achieving as much as possible.

I return to the point about where such people might live. Many parents are concerned about what will happen to their child when they are no longer around. I have visited many small houses where four or five young people live with a housekeeper but look after themselves and go out to employment and to courses. That is the way forward for people in this group. We then need to analyse the programme’s outcomes over the years. I know from my conversations with the National Autistic Society and others that they want to see it rolled out throughout the country, so that the young man in York can find employment just as easily as the young man living in Ilford North or Redbridge.

Lord Freud has taken this matter forward in the other place and is meeting businesses, and I look forward to working with him on this. If we do not take this forward and get involved in helping, we will truly be letting down some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We all have concerns about youth unemployment. We heard them during the statement on gang crime and we have heard them in various debates, but I do not believe that anyone is happy with the present situation. I know that my Government want to take action on this. Words from me are not enough and I sincerely hope that I will receive the backing of every Member in the House today and can then return in a year’s time and say that this is working for the young people who have autism, Asperger’s and other special needs. I hope that I will be able to work with everyone in the House to achieve it and show that it is a success.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr Lee Scott, Jon Cruddas, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Mike Gapes, Mr Brian Binley, John Cryer, Simon Kirby, Mr John Leech, Robert Halfon, Paul Maynard, Dr Julian Huppert and Mr. Robert Buckland present the Bill.

Mr Lee Scott accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 20 January 2012, and to be printed (Bill 242).

Before we come to the main business of the day—the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill—we have a point of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I have some guidance on whether it is appropriate for the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), to speak for the Government on this part of the Bill, given the media interest from The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian in his business interests in the insurance industry? I know that the Government have had a problem with this because they took part of his responsibilities from him on 17 October.

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that it is for Members to take responsibility for their own interests and, as necessary, if they think it appropriate, seek advice from the Registrar, and there is of course an obligation upon Ministers, of which the Minister will be well aware, to comply with the ministerial code, but beyond that no special comment needs to be made on the matter. It is perfectly proper for the Government to decide which Minister should take the proceedings on the Floor of the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that my financial interests have today once again been regurgitated by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), and given that they formed the subject of a complaint by his colleague the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), I think it is wrong of him, almost to the point of being misleading, not to mention that the Cabinet Secretary found, and informed his hon. Friend of the fact, that I had declared my relevant interests, had not acted in conflict of interest and had acted in the public interest. Will the hon. Gentleman now acknowledge that?

The Minister has put the position, including new evidence, very clearly on the record. However, points of order cannot be the occasion for a debate, which would be wrong. The Minister has clarified the position, Members will have heard it—

Order. The Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), has important responsibilities in the House. I do not want him at this early hour to get overexcited; that usually happens later in the day, not yet. Let us proceed in a seemly manner with the help of the Chair of the Select Committee.