First-of-its-kind bill supporting people with Down syndrome debated in Parliament

A bill focused on improving the lives of those living with Down syndrome passed its second reading in Parliament today after receiving backing from the government.

Conservative MP Dr Liam Fox introduced the Down Syndrome Bill last week with the support of cross-party MPs, as campaigners called on Parliament to pass the bill before World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March 2022.

If passed into law, the Down Syndrome Act would improve provisions for those living with Down syndrome in England, placing a duty on local authorities to assess individuals’ needs for maternity care, education, health and social care, and employment.

Sutton support group Get on Down‘s leader Lucienne Cooper, whose son Billy has Down syndrome said: “When we knew that we had government backing for this bill I felt like there had been a weight lifted off my shoulders.

“I feel now that Billy’s life is going to be protected by the law. That’s how important it is.

“I think people with Down Syndrome have had their voice largely ignored as a population but so much research has been done on the way they learn and what helps them to achieve and what they’re capable of.

“Now they’re going to be able to do that more easily without their parents fighting for it, or fighting for it themselves. It’s a life changing moment.”

She added: “It’s really good to have that local backing as well, knowing that our local MP, Elliot Colburn, seconded this bill and is part of the down syndrome all-party parliamentary group, which hopefully will support this bill going forward.”

Liam Fox MP said: “I am thrilled to bring forward a Bill to deal with the issues faced by those with Down syndrome.

“My aim is to deal with three main areas: to de-stigmatise Down syndrome; to ensure that current provision of services is improved; and to look ahead and deal with future issues, such as long-term care, in an era where, for the first time, many of those with Down syndrome will outlive their parents.”

More than 30,600 people signed a petition by the National Down Syndrome Policy Group (NDSPG) supporting the bill since the launch of their Stand Up for Down Syndrome campaign a month ago.

Peter Brackett, Chair of the NDSPG said: “The Down Syndrome Bill is essential to address the specific deficiencies and barriers faced by people who have Down syndrome and we hope that MPs across all parties will vote for this Bill.

“When enacted we will finally have legislation to ensure every stage in the lives of these people are protected and enhanced.

“Only through this can people with Down syndrome achieve their rightful place as recognised individuals, contributing towards a better, inclusive society.”

Battersea Power Station was lit up in blue, pink and purple to show support for the bill last night.

The bill has also received support from television personalities, including CBeebies presenter and self-advocate George Webster; BBC’s Line of Duty actor Tommy Jessop; writer and creator of Call the Midwife Heidi Thomas; and actress Sally Phillips.

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