The National Autistic Society provides important work in raising awareness of the challenges faced by people with autism in the workplace and in public places. The 'Too Much Information' campaign and the Autism Friendly Award are making excellent progress in making businesses and public spaces more accessible to autistic people. It is excellent that Parliament has been recognised for its commitment to ensuring people with autism and their families can have arrangements made to help them use a building or facility, and that staff both understand and can adapt to their specific needs.
I am encouraged by the range of programmes and initiatives in place to support people with disabilities or long-term health conditions, including autism, in employment. By March 2017, 1,000 Job Centre Plus staff had been trained to provide the best possible support to claimants who have autism.
New measures were launched to help people with autism to mark World Autism Awareness Week. This includes a Disability Confident autism toolkit, which provides comprehensive information on autism and hidden impairments, as well as guidance on employment and local authority services. The Department for Work and Pensions has also helped develop a Disability Passport to support people with autism who are seeking jobs and those helping them. Sharing this with their work coach or adviser can help improve communication and put any reasonable adjustments in place at the earliest opportunity.
Regarding Autism and Education
The Government is committed to providing an education system that works for all children, including those with special educational needs such as autism. It is vitally important that autistic children are given the additional support they deserve to reach their full potential.
While there is more that can be done to support autism in schools, I can assure you that the Government has already made notable progress in improving the educational infrastructure for children with special educational needs. In order to deliver autism awareness training and advice for teachers and other staff, so that they can appropriately identify and interact with autistic children, the Government has funded three voluntary sector organisations, including the Autism Education Trust (AET). The AET has trained more than 100,000 education staff since 2012, in addition to publishing national autism standards and frameworks.
Further to this, the Government has issued £113 million in funding between 2014/15 and 2016/17 through the SEND Implementation Grant to support local authorities in carrying out reforms to special needs education. There has also been a focus on opening more specialist schools for children with autism. Several of the schools opened under the Free Schools Programme are catered exclusively to autistic pupils.
The Government is committed to putting effective special provisions in place, as autism must not be a barrier to educational success.