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Autism and Learning Disabilities

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 23 July 2019

15. What additional funding he plans to allocate to the NHS to reduce the number of people with autism and learning disabilities held in in-patient settings. (912129)

The NHS long-term plan commits to an extra £4.5 billion a year for primary and community health services by 2023-24. Local areas will be expected to use part of this investment to develop specialist services and community crisis care to reduce avoidable admissions and lengths of stay for autistic people and those with learning disabilities.

I do not know whether the Minister has seen the report from the Children’s Commissioner, but it says that the number of children with autism or learning difficulties in mental health hospitals has doubled in recent years. Many are very far from home. Their parents are not consulted properly on their care, and they are in for much longer than they need to be. What proportion of the money that she mentions will go towards trying to ensure that children can have support in their home, so that they are not in this situation?

The hon. Lady has hit on a really important point. The truth is that a lot of children who end up in an in-patient setting are not diagnosed with autism or a learning disability until they are there; they normally come in on a mental health diagnosis. There are a few points to make here. One is on making sure that early intervention is there as early as when a child is in school. That is why the Government have made a commitment to having mental health support available from a very early age, in schools. This is also about making sure that families do not get to crisis point, and that the investment is there in the community, so that children get the support that they need at every possible step.