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1.1. Outline the key points of current legislation and guidance in relation to; autism, equality and disability rights, special educational needs, mental capacity and best interests, advocacy.

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This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: This page has been quality assured for 2023 as per our Quality Assurance policy.

There are several pieces of legislation that can be used to support individuals with autism. These are explored below.

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Autism

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The Autism Act 2009 is primarily concerned with the improvement of public services for autistic adults, aiming to enhance their quality of life through better access to the services they need. The Act requires the Government to introduce and keep under review an adult autism strategy – the latest version of this policy document (2021-2026) can be found here. The Act also puts legal responsibility on local authorities to provide every autistic person within their catchment area with a social care assessment.

Equality and Disability Rights

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The Equality Act 2010 is a law that prevents individuals from being treated unfairly based on certain characteristics, one of which is disability. Whilst many individuals with autism would not consider their condition a ‘disability‘, the government defines it as:

A disability can arise from a wide range of impairments which can be … developmental, such as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), dyslexia and dyspraxia.’

~ Disability: Equality Act 2010 – Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability (HM Government)

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Therefore, individuals with autism are able to use this law to help ensure that they are not treated unfairly or discriminated against.

The Human Rights Act 1998 is a piece of legislation that sets out several freedoms and liberties that are the right of all individuals, including people with autism. Some of these rights include:

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  • Right to life
  • Right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to marry
  • Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence
  • Right not to be discriminated against when relying on your other rights in the Human Rights Act

Governments, local authorities, employers and educational institutions must ensure that their policies or actions do not impinge on the fundamental human rights of individuals.

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Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Special Educational Needs (SEN) also known as Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) relates to children and young adults that may have difficulty learning.

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The SEND Code of Practice explains the duties of local authorities, schools, and other educational establishments, for the provision of support to individuals with special educational needs/disabilities and ensure that they get the same opportunities as others. It is based upon several pieces of legislation including:

  • Children & Families Act 2014
  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Mental Capacity Act 2005
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Mental Capacity and Best Interests

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and its companion, the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice, ensures that individuals that are deemed to not have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves are treated fairly.

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Under the legislation, it must not be assumed that an individual is unable to make a decision for themselves and every effort should be made to support an individual to make their own choices. When an individual is unable to make a decision for themselves, any decisions made on their behalf must be made in their best interests.

Advocacy

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Advocacy is the process of having an appointed person speak up on the behalf of an individual. An advocate may be used if, for example, the individual is unable to communicate their needs or does not understand their rights. Advocates must always act in the best interests of the individual that they are representing.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 Code of Practice has several notes about when an advocate may be utilised.

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Statutory guidance for the Care Act 2014 tasks local authorities with the provision of an independent advocate if an individual is unable to participate in conversations about their care and support needs.

Further information about advocacy can be found here.

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