Harlow’s MP, Robert Halfon, has supported a new Bill in Parliament which will “transform provision and outcomes for all those living with Down syndrome in the UK”. The Bill, which was introduced by Dr Liam Fox MP, has been backed by the Government, meaning it is likely to become law in the near future. It follows the landmark Autism Act which established a National Strategy to help meet the needs of adults with autistic spectrum conditions in England.
However, the Down Syndrome Act will go further, identifying needs in all areas, for all individuals with Down syndrome across the whole of the UK. The legislation includes three key measures:
- De-stigmatising Down syndrome and re-educating both the public and professionals about the advances, including in life expectancy, that have occurred in recent decades.
- Ensuring that current provision of services is improved, whether provided by health, education or local services, by ensuring that providers give due consideration to those with Down syndrome when designing service provision.
- Looking ahead and dealing with future issues, such as long-term care, in order to prevent avoidable human tragedies.
Mr Halfon strongly welcomed the news that the Government is backing the Bill. He said: “We are so lucky in Harlow to have incredible organisations like Upwards with Downs, ASL, Razed Roof and many others who offer amazing opportunities to young people with Down Syndrome. I have seen their remarkable work first hand, but I also know that too many people with Down Syndrome are not able to access the services they need because often, the service provision is not properly inclusive and an upsetting stigma still remains.
“This new legislation will go a long way to tackling these issues head on by ensuring that all service provision is designed in a properly inclusive manner, the stigma around Down Syndrome is ended and better long-term care is planned for - all backed by a new National Strategy.
“I believe that these measures and this new law will improve the lives of those with Down Syndrome and that is why I am delighted to be backing it. I will continue to work hard to support our amazing local organisations and to ensure that the Government does everything possible to improve the lives of everyone with a disability.”
Peter Brackett, Chair of the National Down Syndrome Policy Group also welcomed the news saying: "For too long the voice of the Down syndrome community has not been heard. We are delighted that the Down Syndrome Bill will enable engagement to secure and safeguard the rights and ambitions of the community across all aspects of society.”
Actor and Trustee for the National Down Syndrome Policy Group (NDSPG) George Webster added: “I would like to see the Bill becoming law, then I think everyone like me with Down Syndrome will get better healthcare, more access to services and be more included in society. It is possible. It happens for some now, but it shouldn’t be a lottery.”