Down's syndrome: MPs back 'world-leading' proposals to improve care

Actor Tommy Jessop who appeared in BBC drama Line of Duty, has backed the Bill. Credit: PA

ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers heard from some of those who will benefit from the law

People with Down's Syndrome should have better access to high quality care, the government has said, as MPs backed a "world-leading" proposed law on Friday.

The Down Syndrome Bill requires the government to publish guidance on the specific needs of people with Down’s syndrome and how they should be met.

Authorities providing health, care, education and housing services must then act to deliver on these requirements.

With legal protections in place, it is hoped the Bill will make it easier for people with Down’s syndrome and their families to secure the services they need and to challenge authorities not acting on their duties.

Battersea Power Station lit up in blue and pink, in support of the Bill. Credit: PA

The Bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle on its way to becoming law on Friday. It received an unopposed second reading following support from across the House of Commons.

Health minister Gillian Keegan, who has a nephew with the condition, told the Commons that people with Down’s syndrome should have the opportunity to enjoy all aspects of society, as well as access to services and support that will enable them throughout their lifetime.

“I know that today people with Down’s syndrome are struggling to access the services they need and I’ve seen this with my own family", she said.

“It is not right, it must change and we will change it.”

Conservative former cabinet minister Dr Liam Fox, who brought forward the Bill, warned it would be a “stain on our country” to see people with Down’s syndrome whose parents have died being placed in “inappropriate institutions”.

With life expectancy increasing for people with the condition, Dr Fox said we must guarantee the independence and dignity of those with Down's syndrome, so that their parents aren't worried about what happens to their children later in life.

He told MPs: “This is not a Bill about a condition, it is not about dealing with Down’s syndrome, it is about people who deserve the same ability to demand the best health, education and care as the rest of our society.

“It is not on our part an act of charity, it is an act of empowerment and the recognition that all members of our society must have a right to respect, independence and dignity", he said.

Actor and campaigner Tommy Jessop, who appeared in BBC drama series Line of Duty, went to Parliament to back the Bill.

Last week, he told ITV News: ''We are not all the same. We have different talents and personalities just like other groups of people.

"Hopefully this Bill will make all the difference."

Around 47,000 people in the UK have Down’s syndrome.

Ms Keegan said the Bill applies to England but she confirmed further discussions are expected with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) welcomed the legislation, adding: “We’re saying yes, people with Down’s syndrome are different but they are equal and this makes them equal under the law."

Labour also supported the proposals, which will undergo further scrutiny at committee stage at a later date.