15 January 2021

DOMESTIC ABUSE AND HIDDEN HARMS – RT HON DAME CHERYL GILLAN

MP calls on Home Office Minister to improve help for adults and children with autism

Cheryl-Gillan-chalfonst-amersham-2021-autismThere are hidden victims of the global pandemic, those who are suffering domestic abuse during lockdown. During a statement by Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins

MP on domestic abuse and hidden harms, the Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP told Ms Atkins that “some of the people suffering most adversely in this lockdown are adults and children with autism.”

Dame Cheryl, who chairs the all party parliamentary group on autism and introduced the landmark Autism Act eleven years ago, said: “Madam Deputy Speaker, you and I have both worked on this important policy area in the past, and I commend the Minister on her statement and the added protections she is putting in place. However, evidence is now becoming available that some of the people who are suffering most adversely in this lockdown are adults and children with autism. So that more appropriate and better services can be offered to them to alleviate their suffering, what data are the Government collecting on individuals and families with an autistic member suffering from domestic abuse, and the hidden harms the Minister has referred to, during this

lockdown? If the answer is none, can this be remedied immediately? If that data is being collected, can it be published on a regular basis so that specialised support for this vulnerable group of adults and children can be improved?

Victoria Atkins MP answered: “My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the needs of people living with autism and other such conditions, as she always does when the opportunity presents itself. I hope that she welcomes the mental health reforms that the Government have announced this week, which will be a real step forward in us all understanding the differences between autism and Asperger’s, and the ways in which they are wrongly treated at this point in time under the historic legislation. I also hope that she is aware of the national strategy for disabled people, which the Prime Minister is absolutely committed to publishing. Only yesterday or the day before, in fact, I attended a meeting chaired by my hon. Friend Justin Tomlinson, to work out across Government how we can help people with disabilities, including those who live with autism.

“ As to the specific points on data, sadly, there is much room for improvement when it comes to the collection of data in respect of victims. I will take away my right hon. Friend’s specific question, because I am very clear in my mind as to how those health conditions can make a person more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and ensuring that disabled victims of domestic abuse are better looked after will be part of our work. I will draw upon her advice and wisdom in this respect, because we want to be clear that no matter what health conditions
and disabilities people are living with, they should not be victims of these terrible crimes.”
Dame Cheryl said afterwards: “ Individuals and families affected by autism face a challenging time during the pandemic and it is reassuring to hear that the Minister is making their welfare a priority.”
For further information, please contact the Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP via
cheryl.gillan.mp@parliament.uk