26th November 2021 • My Family Our Needs
A Bill focused on improving the lives of those living with Down Syndrome is expected to clear its first Commons hurdle today (Friday 26th November) after the Government announced it will support it to become law.
The Down Syndrome Bill has been introduced as Dr Liam Fox’s Private Member’s Bill. Dr Fox was selected, for the first time in his thirty years as an MP, in the Private Members’ Ballot to bring forward a Bill of his own choosing for this Parliamentary session – only twenty MPs in each parliamentary session are drawn at random in the ballot. Dr Fox, a former NHS Doctor and GP, decided to use this unique opportunity to bring forward the ‘Down Syndrome Bill’ as his Private Members’ Bill.
The Bill is co-sponsored by cross-party MPs, and politicians from across the political divide attended an event with Dr Fox in Parliament earlier this week in support of the Bill.
The Down Syndrome Bill
The Down Syndrome Bill would mean the establishment of a Down Syndrome Act, which will be the first of its kind in the world. The Act would improve the provision and outcomes for all those people living with Down syndrome in England. This will encompass, amongst other areas, maternity care, education, health and social care and employment.
Campaigners are calling for the Bill to receive Royal Assent before World Down Syndrome Day on 21st March 2022.
Support for the Bill
TV Personalities have also shown their support for the Bill, 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 the actress Sally Phillips.
The National Down Syndrome Policy Group (NDSPG) has launched a campaign in support for the Bill. The ‘Stand Up for Down Syndrome’ campaign includes a Change.org petition which has attracted the signatures of 30,400 people. Thousands of constituents have also written to their MPs as part of the campaign urging them to support the Bill.
Many of those taking part in the campaign have shared photos of their children with Down Syndrome on social media to help send a strong message about the importance of the Bill.
The NDSPG has organised a gathering outside Parliament today (Friday, 26th November) at 13:30hrs so that those from the Down Syndrome community can publicly demonstrate their support of Dr Liam Fox’s Bill on the day of its second reading in the House of Commons.
Dr Liam Fox MP, the Down Syndrome Bill Sponsor 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. The first is to de-stigmatise Down syndrome. The second is to ensure that current provision of services is improved. The third is 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.”
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. We will work hard to support any information needs that those politicians may have, to ensure they are fully informed about the issues before the vote. Societal infrastructures need to be in place to progress the rights of this community. 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.”
If the Bill passes Second Reading in the House of Commons, which it is expected to do so, then Battersea Power Station in London will be lit up in blue, pink, purple on Friday evening – to celebrate this historic and ground-breaking moment.