Naz Shah MP

Labour MP for Bradford West

Autism Diagnosis Debate

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Autism Diagnosis Debate - 

Today I called on the government to do more to support those who need Autism Diagnosis. The current system is slow, underfunded and those needing support are waiting years for the diagnosis.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) on securing the debate.

Like many other Members here, I have met constituents who have talked to me not only about the difficulty of diagnosis, but the importance of getting a diagnosis. I have also heard of the difficulty that both children and adults face when trying to access the services required to support their everyday lives. I stand here today as someone who has worked as an advocate for people with disabilities since 1999—in my previous life—and in our family, my brother and sister-in-law are full-time carers to a young man who is autistic, and the father of my children continues to provide respite for two young men who are autistic, so I am very familiar with the issue of autism.

The story I really want to share today is that of young Mustafa, who will be five years old in October. His parents, Aweis Asghar and Neela Fawad, have had many conversations about the fact that Mustafa was recently diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. It took 12 months for that diagnosis and a further six months to have an education, health and care plan assessment by the local authority. At a time when young parents should be enjoying spending time with their only child—getting him to school and doing all the normal things—a diagnosis of autism has a massive impact not only on that family, but on the wider family unit: their work life, home life and everything. They are trying to understand something unique to their child. No two children on the spectrum are the same, and no parents will ever feel the same; they all handle things differently.

Aweis told me this morning that in America an assessor comes to the parents’ house, offers advice and guidance on the world of autism, and understands their child as an individual. Here, parents are left to their own devices. Not everybody has the level of education or the time, because of work pressures, required to do what it takes to get their child the support they need. When they get that support, it is usually from local charities, local support groups and other parents, as opposed to statutory services, which is where the ownership for making those interventions and supporting families should lie. Aweis also told me—we have talked extensively about this—that there are no clear pathways anywhere and that we do not follow the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.

I want to ask the Government for a few things today. First, we need to revisit the NICE guidelines and ensure that we put in place the right pathways. We need to understand that every child is an individual and create their care packages individually. Secondly, the Government need to have a consistent approach across the country for every child.

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