Health secretary visits Dagenham charity for Autism Awareness Week

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Syca

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Sycamore Trust for Autism Awareness week. - Credit: Archant

A Dagenham charity has hosted health secretary Matt Hancock as part of effort to raise the profile of autism.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Syca

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Sycamore Trust for Autism Awareness week. - Credit: Archant

The Sycamore Trust helps children with autism and their families live with the condition.

Mr Hancock visited the trust to better understand autism as part of Autism Awareness Week.

The exercise included being surrounded and shouted at to understand the sensory overload that people with autism often experience, and solving a puzzle after being told rushed instructions.

“As a society we need to support people with autism to live a fulfilling life in a way that allows them to fulfil their potential. There’s more that we need to do to change the way society works so that people with autism can do that,” he said.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Syca

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Sycamore Trust for Autism Awareness week. - Credit: Archant


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Awareness is a big first step to improving the lives of people with autism. It allows members of the public to make small adjustments that make their lives easier.

The amount of time to get a formal diagnosis for autism—a step needed to get access to services that can help them—is also a problem.

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As the condition presents differently in different people, it can be hard to get GPs and other staff to make the decision to refer a child.

It means that, while some children get the care they need from an early age, many don’t.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Syca

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Sycamore Trust for Autism Awareness week. - Credit: Archant

An increase in awareness also extends to employers. Getting a job is often a huge hurdle for people with autism.

“All employers can look at the value of people living with autism,” Mr Hancock added.

“I have the strong belief that everyone has a contribution to give to society. Employers have a role in helping people to make that contribution.”

Alex Rowley is 26 and was diagnosed with autism when he was five. He’s now an ambassador for the Sycamore Trust and gave the minister a presentation.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Syca

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock on a visit to the autism charity Sycamore Trust for Autism Awareness week. - Credit: Archant

“I hope he’s taking away a better understanding of autism, one that he can hopefully share with his colleagues so that, when autism is a factor in something, a more nuanced approach is taken,” he said.

“We can do lots of things and we can’t do lots of things, it depends on the person. It always depends on the individual.”

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