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15 Mar 2001 : Column WA99

Written Answers

Thursday, 15th March 2001.

Variant CJD: Published Data

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the demographics of nvCJD, referrals to the CJD surveillance unit, sporadic CJD and dementia; whether they will provide demographic data for the United Kingdom as a whole; and whether they will also provide these data renormalised.[HL740]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit (CJDSU) monitors the characteristics of all forms of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) in the United Kingdom, to identify trends in incidence rates and to study risk factors for the development of disease. The unit undertakes epidemiological research in relation to sporadic, familial, iatrogenic CJD and the new variant of CJD (vCJD) and studies regional variations, and analyses by age and sex. CJDSU publishes all these data in an annual report, which is placed in the Library. It will publish its report for 2000 later this year.

The Department of Health publishes, on a monthly basis, figures on the numbers of cases of all types of CJD in the UK. The press release includes the number of living patients suffering from "probable" variant CJD and the number of referrals to the CJDSU. Copies are placed in the Library.

European Convention on Human Rights, Article 14: Justifiable Discrimination

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath of 1 March (WA 160), whether they consider that Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights is similar to Article 14 of the Convention in that both the protocol and Article 14 prohibit discrimination which constitutes a difference of treatment that has no reasonable and objective justification.[HL1113]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The texts of Protocol 12 and Article 14 are similar in that both are silent on differences of treatment which have a reasonable and justifiable discrimination. The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights indicates that discrimination for the purposes of Article 14 excludes differences which have such a justification, but the Court's interpretation of the Convention evolves and it is not bound by previous judgments.

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Autism

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to support the autistic community in the United Kingdom.[HL 1115]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is the responsibility of local statutory bodies to determine the provision of services to autistic people based on their knowledge of local needs and priorities.

The Department of Health has issued guidance to encourage the development, at a local level, of a range of well co-ordinated health and social services for people with learning disabilities, many of whom also have autism, and their carers. Our strategy for services for people with a learning disability will be published as a White Paper in the next few weeks. Our increased investment in health, education and personal social services in England over the next three years will benefit people with autism as well as everyone else who needs them. Services for people with autism in other parts of the United Kingdom are a matter for devolved administrations.

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have considered assisting the National Autistic Society in organising a major conference on autism and the issues surrounding the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.[HL 1117]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We recognise the valuable work of the National Autistic Society in raising awareness of the needs of children and adults with autistic spectrum conditions and have funded a number of their activities over the years. As rigorous scrutiny by the Department of Health and a number of independent expert advisory groups has established that the present evidence does not support any association between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism, we would not view a conference on this subject as a priority for public funding.

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to addresses the shortage of specialist teachers and specialist speech therapists needed to deal with autistic children.[HL1118]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Autism is a significant area of work in speech and language therapy. It is, however, a specialised area, and as a consequence there are only a limited number of therapists with the highly developed skills required to work effectively with this client group.

We need to see further increases in the number of speech and language therapists employed within the National Health Service. The NHS Plan commits the Government to 6,500 more therapists and other health professionals, with 4,450 more therapists and other key professions being trained each year by 2004. We

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have made good progress in the past two years. However we are currently conducting a labour market analysis in order to inform future education commissioning decisions and this report will be available in the late spring.

An increase in the total number of speech and language therapists working in the National Health Service will have a positive impact in all areas. It will also increase the number of therapists currently able to develop the more specialist skills required with particular client groups such as people with autistic spectrum disorder.

The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) is providing significant levels of financial support for the training and professional development of teachers and other staff working with children with special educational needs (SEN), including those children on the autistic spectrum. Under the Standards Fund 2000-01, DfEE is supporting expenditure of £26 million on SEN training and development--an increase from £21 million in 1999-2000. In 2001-02 DfEE envisages that £30 million of the overall SEN Standards Fund allocation of £82 million will be spent on SEN training.

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they plan to meet the needs of autistic children from ethnic minority backgrounds, and, in particular, the need for additional language support.[HL1119]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is the responsibility of local statutory authorities to determine the pattern of services in their area in the light of their knowledge of local needs and priorities. Health and local authorities should ensure that the particular health, education and social care needs of each child with autism, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds, are met with genuine choices.

Every child with an autistic spectrum disorder should benefit from the Government's commitment to improving health and reducing inequality in the health service under the NHS Plan. Many children with autism also have a learning disability and will be covered by our national learning disability strategy, which we intend to publish as a White Paper in the next few weeks.

Under the Standards Fund 2001-02, the Department for Education and Employment is supporting expenditure of £82 million on special educational needs. We envisage that local education authorities will spend £10 million of this on enhancing speech and language therapy provision in conjunction with the NHS and the voluntary sector. This would include enhancing facilities available to ethnic minority pupils.

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy towards autistic children and adults from minority ethnic communities.[HL1128]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Government are committed to ensuring that people from ethnic minority communities have equal access to all public services.

Children and adults with an autistic spectrum disorder will benefit from the Government's commitment to improving health and reducing inequality in the health service under the NHS Plan. Many people with autism also have a learning disability and will be covered by our national learning disability strategy, which will be published as a White Paper in the next few weeks.

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to ensure that local education authorities and National Health Service trusts fund basic educational services and specialist speech therapy for all autistic children.[HL1131]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Our increased investment in health, education and personal social services in England over the next three years will benefit people with autism as well as everyone else who needs them. We have demonstrated our commitment to improving the recruitment and retention of the allied health professions, including speech and language therapists, in Meeting the Challenge: A Strategy for the Allied Health Professions, which I had the pleasure of launching on 25 November 2000.

Funding is not made available for specific categories of special educational need. Rather, funding is allocated and distributed via local education authorities (LEAs), which have a duty to provide appropriately for all children in their area. This includes the duty to identify children's individual special educational needs and to deliver the most appropriate provision to meet those needs.

Under the Standards Fund for 2001-02, the Department for Education and Employment is supporting expenditure of £82 million on special educational needs. We envisage that local education authorities will spend £10 million of this on enhancing speech and language therapy provision in conjunction with the NHS and the voluntary sector. The grant is also available for training staff on special educational needs issues.

At the individual pupil level, we are also working to promote better and more consistent practice towards all pupils with special educational needs. In particular the revised SEN Code of Practice should promote more consistent practice by schools and LEAs. Whilst individual pupils with SEN will vary in their needs, it is important that schools and others adopt a consistent and rigorous approach in identifying and providing for these needs.


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