New Down Syndrome Bill to be introduced to ParliamentAbortion
A new Down Syndrome Bill will aim to improve opportunities and outcomes for people living with Down Syndrome in the UK.
The bill was initially proposed by the Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association, and will be sponsored by Dr Liam Fox MP. It will be debated in Parliament later this year.
Legal recognition for people with Down Syndrome
The bill will legally recognise people with Down Syndrome as a specific group, ensuring they are protected along with other minority groups.
Like the Autism Act 2009, the bill will ensure that people with Down Syndrome have their specific needs met by public bodies, rather than being treated similarly to all other disabled groups.
Improved life outcomes
Currently children with Down Syndrome are automatically sent to a special school and only one in four go to a mainstream school, due to lack of support.
The bill will rectify this by placing a requirement on every school to meet the needs of pupils with Down Syndrome, thus giving them a choice of which school to go to.
This would mean better training for teachers to understand the condition, including helping pupils with Down Syndrome with their speech and language—improving their life chances as a result.
The bill will also provide long term care for people with Down Syndrome whose parents have died, given that life expectancy for people with Down Syndrome has vastly improved and many are outliving their parents.
Furthermore, the bill will aim to improve employment rates for adults with Down Syndrome, which is currently as low as 6 per cent.
Ken Ross of the National Down Syndrome Policy Group, argues that these changes will benefit children with Down Syndrome, but will also raise public awareness and encourage greater acceptance of people with Down Syndrome in society.
Good chance of becoming law
Dr Fox said that he is confident Ministers will back his bill, and that it may well have a good chance of becoming law by March 21 next year—World Down Syndrome Day.
Speaking to The Times, he said his motivation to change the law derived from his childhood, where he grew up next to a boy with Down Syndrome.
Welcomed by Down Syndrome Campaigners
The bill has been welcomed by campaigners, including actor Tommy Jessop, who has Down Syndrome, and who is backing Dr Fox and his bill:
CARE welcomes this bill. We have been concerned for some time about the way people with Down Syndrome are being treated in our society, and particularly how the rise of pre-natal testing for Down Syndrome has led to increased termination rates.
Alongside Heidi Crowter's legal challenge to our discriminatory abortion laws, which allow for abortion up to birth for babies with Down Syndrome, we hope this bill will lead to significant changes in public perception and will lead to really positive outcomes for people with Down Syndrome.