Labour to appoint shadow minister for neurodiversity and develop autism manifesto

The proposal was suggested by autism rights campaigners

Jon Stone
Tuesday 31 May 2016 15:11 BST
Campaigns for Autistic rights in London
Campaigns for Autistic rights in London

Labour will appoint a shadow minister for neurodiversity in a bid to improve its policies around autism and other behavioral differences.

The announcement follows an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn by Monique Craine, a blogger who campaigns for autism rights, who suggested the idea.

John McDonnell, Labour shadow chancellor, backed the plan in public earlier month and said he would consult on the issue.

Speaking at a book launch over the weekend he said the shadow minister proposal was “brilliant idea” for increasing representation.

“We want to represent the whole of society fairly. At the moment we are focusing on LGBT, we’re focusing on women, we’re focusing on race, etc,” he said, according to the Guardian newspaper.

“But what about neurological diversity as well? And I think that’s come on to the agenda.”

The shadow chancellor added that Labour would draw up an autism manifesto created by people who were on the spectrum themselves, with policies relevant to their lives.

The new position follows the appointment of an explicit shadow minister for mental health in the shadow cabinet for the first time.

Mr Corbyn, who has long campaigned on mental health issues, created that point as one of his first acts after being elected leader.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said other parties should consider adopting similar ideas.

"The proposals put forward by the Shadow Chancellor look promising. We need more details but, if followed through, they should give welcome attention to the particular and diverse needs of autistic people and their families," he said.

"We'd encourage other parties to consider developing similar ideas, especially creating a position with specific responsibility for autism.

"More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and many of them face huge barriers each day, just to do things that others take for granted - whether that's being supported in school, finding a job or even feeling able to go to the cinema or shops without feeling judged.

"We're pleased that the Shadow Chancellor emphasised the importance of making sure that autistic people and their families have a central role in developing these plans.

"We look forward to finding out more details soon and working with Labour to improve the lives of the 700,000 autistic people in the UK, and their families."

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