Autism and ADHD Assessments Debate

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Department: Scotland Office

Autism and ADHD Assessments

Matt Vickers Excerpts
Monday 6th February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Matt Vickers Portrait Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Angela. I thank the petition organisers and the many people who signed it for ensuring that we could debate this incredibly important subject today. Many lives have been affected by delays in diagnosis, as evidenced by the huge number of MPs we have heard speak today. We talk about numbers and timeframes, but the thing that makes this situation entirely unacceptable is the scale of impact on all these individuals, their lives and the time they spend without the support they need.

One of my constituents shared his story with me. Around six years ago, Ben began having increased periods of depression, which eventually led to a situation in 2019 where he went through weeks of being unable to sleep and being confused and distressed, with suicidal ideation. Ben was referred by his GP for an autism assessment. It took more than three years for Ben to be diagnosed—three unbearable and unpredictable years of miscommunication, waiting and suffering for him and his family.

It is not just about the time. It is about the fact Ben continued to live undiagnosed with unmitigated challenges that impacted hugely on his work, social life and family life. It had a huge impact on his ability to focus and sleep and on his concentration and memory. He also suffered from rejection sensitive dysphoria. Ben has managed to turn the pain of his experience into energy. Alongside his wife, he has set up an autism charity to support other families dealing with the impact of autism. Too many people like Ben are left waiting, wondering and suffering for way too long. We must do more.

In my part of the world we have some incredible charities that work to support people with ADHD and autism. Daisy Chain is a fantastic Stockton charity that was set up by the late Lesley Hanson when her son was diagnosed with autism. It started life as a small charity but has gone from strength to strength. It now offers the lifeline of life-changing specialist provision to more than 3,000 families and neurodiverse individuals every year. I recently met with Daisy Chain and heard about the incredibly work it is doing to support people and ensure they can live their fullest lives.

I have also met representatives of the Stockton Parent Carer Forum, which supports families of children with special educational needs, providing an incredibly valuable place where parents can share experiences and seek advice. Importantly, it helps signpost parents to support and helps to try to mitigate any impact on children’s development and education. All of these specialist organisations deserve our thanks. They make an incredible difference to the lives of many people across Stockton, but they all share concerns about waiting times and the support made available to those suffering from autism and ADHD.

In the last five years, the number of people being treated for ADHD has risen by 80%. People with ADHD are five times more likely to commit suicide than somebody without the condition. That is why reducing waiting times for diagnoses and providing support for people with ADHD is so important. Currently, one third of adults awaiting assessment have been waiting for longer than 13 months. Those people are unable to receive much-needed support and medication while awaiting diagnosis.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to addressing the issue and improving the diagnostic pathway and care for people with ADHD. By 2023-24, children and young people with a learning disability or autism—or both—with the most complex needs will have a designated key worker. That will improve the care and support they receive. I look forward to hearing from the Minister about what the Government are going to do to drive down unacceptable waiting times and improve the support available so that those with autism and ADHD can live their lives to the full.