Steve Brine attended the launch of Ambitious about Autism's new campaign in Westminster on Monday 17th October.
Titled 'Finished at School: Where next for young people with autism?' the campaign calls for:
A clear legal right to educational support up to the age of 25 for young disabled people
A funding system that gives young people and families more information, choice and support
A cross-government focus on outcomes and destinations for disabled young people
A further education workforce with the skills to support young people with autism to achieve their ambitions
Research by the charity has found that tens of thousands of young people with autism are being denied access to education beyond school. There are an estimated 66,000 young people with autism aged 16-25 in England and yet the latest data shows that only around 15,000 (23%) access further education.
Parents interviewed as part of the research talk of a facing a 'black hole' when their child approaches 16 due to the 'virtually non-existent' options available to them. They describe the situation as being the 'latest in a long line of battles to get the right education for their child'.
While there are some examples of excellent education provision for young people with autism, these are few and far between. In many cases, the lack of provision forces parents to send their child to one of very few specialist colleges far from home, or into a residential care home with people three times their age.
Steve said: "I am delighted to support Ambitious about Autism's 'Finished at School' campaign. With the right opportunities and support, young people with autism can continue to learn and contribute to their communities. One of my first pieces of casework upon becoming an MP was about post-16 education and autism and I know it is a deeply worrying time for a great many people. I would encourage everyone to sign up to support the campaign at www.AmbitiousAboutAutism.org.uk. "
Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, commented: "Imagine being written off at the age of 16 and told that you have no opportunity to continue your education. Young people with autism are being denied the right to develop new skills, work and live more independently. It is no wonder that only 15% of adults with autism are in full-time employment."
Robert Buckland MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, added: "The chronic lack of college places means that young people with autism are losing the many skills they have gained at school. £27.5 billion a year is spent on supporting people with autism – significant savings could be made if we invested more in further education and supported young people with autism to develop the skills they need to lead more independent lives.
Pictured; Steve signs the pledge in Westminster
Support the campaign at www.AmbitiousAboutAutism.org.uk