A NATIONAL campaign designed to improve the education of young people with autism has been backed by Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds.
The ‘Finished at School' campaign calls for a young disabled people up to the age of 25 to be given a legal right to educational support.
It calls for a funding system that gives young people and their families information, choice and support; the development of a Further Education workforce with the skills to support young people with autism; and a government focus on educational outcomes for disabled young people.
The campaign has been launched by the charity Ambitious about Autism, whose research estimates that only 23 per cent of young people with autism access further education.
Following the launch of the campaign, Mr Reynolds - who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Autism - said: "The ‘Finished at School' campaign highlights an important issue.
"Research by Ambitious about Autism suggests that as few as one in four young people with autism continue their studies after school.
"With the right opportunities and support young people with autism can continue to learn, to achieve and to contribute to their communities.
"And the fact that such a relatively small number of young people with autism continue into further education is a matter of concern.
"I hope that this campaign will highlight this issue and will help to remove some of the educational barriers faced by young people with autism."
Research by Ambitious about Autism estimates that there are currently 66,000 young people with autism aged between 16 and 25 in England. Yet the data shows that only around 15,000 - or 23 per cent - access further education.
Parents interviewed as part of the charity's research talk of a facing a ‘black hole' when their child approaches 16, due to the ‘virtually non-existent' options available to them. And they describe the situation as being the ‘latest in a long line of battles to get the right education for their child'.
The charity accepts there are examples of excellent education provision for young people with autism.
However they say that in many cases lack of provision forces parents to send their child to one of very few specialist colleges far from home, or into a residential care home with people three times their age.
Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: "Imagine being written off at the age of 16 and told that you have no opportunity to continue your education.
"Young people with autism are being denied the right to develop new skills, work and live more independently. It is no wonder that only 15 per cent of adults with autism are in full-time employment."
More information about the ‘Finished at School' campaign can be found at www.AmbitiousAboutAutism.org.uk.'