A Bill that aims to make sure people with Down’s Syndrome get lifelong social care has passed its first Commons hurdle.
MPs approved the Down’s Syndrome Bill in its second reading. The Bill aims to force the Government to provide guidance on how it can accommodate people with the syndrome.
And would also place a duty on local authorities to assess and plan to meet the needs of people with the syndrome when providing health, care, education and housing.
Dr Liam Fox, who brought the Private Members Bill said de-stigmatising Down’s Syndrome is one of his aims and said the Bill was not an “act of charity” but “an act of empowerment”.
“What would be completely unacceptable, a stain on our country and a scandal would be to see in future those whose parents have died being placed in inappropriate institutions, in elderly care homes or mental health institutions.
“That would be something that I think would bring shame to our country as well as an utterly inappropriate lifestyle for those to whom we should be giving the best possible care.,” he told MPs.
It is common for private members’ bills in the Lords to be given a second reading although it still has several stages to clear.
The Bill does have government backing. Health Minister Gillian Keegan said her aunt and nephew live with the condition and it will make a difference to their lives.
She told MPs: “The health, care and happiness of people with Down’s Syndrome is an absolute priority for me.
“As both a minister and proud aunt to my much-loved nephew who lives with the condition, I am pleased to support this bill which will make a significant difference to ensuring health, education, social care and housing needs are met following a pandemic which highlighted disparities that need to be tackled.”
The National Down Syndrome Policy Group (NDSPG) launched a campaign in support for the Bill and many constituents have written to their MPs as part of the campaign urging them to support the Bill.
The NDSPG have organised a gathering outside Parliament today so those in the Down syndrome community can publicly demonstrate their support of Dr Liam Fox’s Bill.
Tommy Jessop, actor from BBC ’s Line of Duty crime drama and self-advocate said: “Everyone needs help now and then. We just need chances in life like anyone else.”
And Peter Brackett, Chair of the NDSPG said: “The Down Syndrome Bill is essential to address the specific deficiencies and barriers faced by people who have Down syndrome and we hope that MPs across all parties will vote for this Bill.
“When enacted we will finally have legislation to ensure every stage in the lives of these people are protected and enhanced. Only through this can people with Down syndrome achieve their rightful place as recognised individuals, contributing towards a better, inclusive society.”
And Tory MP Sir Charles Walker backed the Bill and highlighted the “fragmented” services currently on offer.
He said: “If you have a young child you need: physiotherapy – that’s in one place; occupational therapy in another place; speech and language – elsewhere; community paediatricians in another place; opticians, audiology, and so it goes on and it can be exhausting to navigate these specialist services, but particularly exhausting when you have a child that is very demanding of your time and other family commitments.
“We need to make it easier for parents to get the support they need and, most importantly, the support their children need.”