Gillan hopes to end autism ‘postcode lottery’

By Alex Stevenson

Cheryl Gillan says “the time has come” for people with autism – and hopes her private member’s bill will be the first condition-specific legislation to become law in Britain.

The Conservative shadow Welsh secretary has decided to push for an autism bill after “winning a political lottery” – the ballot to be the first in line for this session’s private member’s bills ballot.

Only two local authorities in England are aware of how many adults in their area are autistic.

And roughly two-thirds of councils do not know how many of the children they are responsible for have autism.

“Our local authorities have no idea what the numbers are – you expect the services to be joined up,” Ms Gillan told

“It’s not rocket science – but it’s not happening at the moment and it needs to.”

The bill hopes to improve local planning of services by bolstering information about people with autism, improve inter-agency working for those moving from child to adult services and ensure access to appropriate support and services for people with autism in adult life.

Ms Gillan said she hoped to build on the work of Angela Browning, whose ten-minute rule bill paved the way for the current legislation.

And she admitted this opportunity to create legislation – her first private member’s bill in 16 years in parliament – stood a reasonable chance of success.

“It’s a cross-party issue, totally apolitical – there’s no party politics involved here. I’m very much hoping the government will work with me on this,” she added.

“I just felt it would be really nice to work on something so worth while.”

Ms Gillan has the backing of the National Autistic Society (NAS) and 13 other autistic charities, which together persuaded 2,600 people to email their MPs about the need for an autism law.

NAS chief executive Mark Lever said the bill was a “huge step forward” but that support was “urgently” needed to make the law pass.

“Without the right help autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect and we will keep campaigning until we see real change at ground level,” he commented.

According to the NAS autism affects 540,000 people in Britain – roughly one in 100 people.