I appreciate the publics concerns about a lack of understanding of the needs of autistic people both in the workplace and in wider society. I am also concerned that people living with autism and their families can face terrible prejudice and stigma. I therefore agree that developing better awareness of the realities of autism would be a welcome development.
I am pleased that Parliament is being recognised for its efforts to become a more accessible workplace. Nevertheless, I appreciate that in Ilford, and around the country, more needs to be done to make our public spaces and workplaces autism friendly.
I pay tribute to charities such as The National Autistic Society (NAS), Autistica, and Ambitious about Autism, which are fighting for people with autism and their families and are campaigning for proper diagnosis, decent treatment, social acceptance and full, productive lives for people with autism. Autism is a condition which requires an early diagnosis to enable individuals with autism and their families to be properly supported. It is therefore concerning that NAS has warned that children and adults are having to wait on average more than two years for a diagnosis.
I know NAS also raises the important issue of the employment gap for people with autism. At the General Election in June 2017, I stood on a Labour manifesto with the ambition to make our country autism-friendly. It committed to work with employers, trade unions and public services to improve awareness of conditions such as autism in the workplace and in society.
I will continue to follow this issue closely and press the Conservative Government to make our country autism-friendly so that autistic people are able to access the whole of their community.