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Autism and the Ethnic Minorities in the UK
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The following document is a scoping paper:





By Ivan Corea




There are  520,000 people in the Autistic Community in the UK.


When we look into the whole subject of Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and Britains ethnic minority communities we need to take into account the changing population in the UK.


The ethnic minority population

Ethnic minority communities in the UK now account for almost 4 million of the total UK population. However, this figure is set to rise considerably for the foreseeable future: for example, the Bangladeshi community in London is expected to grow by 25% between 1996 and 2001. The Black African population is the fastest growing ethnic minority group in the UK.


The size of the minority ethnic population was 4.6 million in 2001 or 7.9 per cent of the total population of the United Kingdom.


Indians were the largest minority group, followed by Pakistanis, those of mixed ethnic background, Black Caribbean's, Black Africans and Bangladeshis. The remaining minority ethnic groups each accounted for less than 0.5 per cent but together accounted for a further 1.4 per cent of the UK population.


Ethnic group data were not collected on the Northern Ireland Census in 1991.However, in Great Britain the minority population grew by 53% between 1991 and 2001, from 3.0 million in 1991 to 4.6 million in 2001.


Half of the total minority ethnic population were Asians of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and other Asian origin. A quarter of minority ethnic people described themselves as Black, that is Black Caribbean, Black African or Other Black. Fifteen per cent of the minority ethnic population described their ethnic group as mixed. About a third of this group were White and Black Caribbean backgrounds.


7.9% of UK citizens are from a minority etrhnic group. From within this group there has been a rise in the numbers of adults and children with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. What we are not seeing are culturally appropriate services to meet the growing needs of ethnic minority communities across the UK. By 2010 ethnic minorities in some of Britain's major cities will be in the majority. Are local councils, local education authorities, NHS Trusts, social services prepared for these changes.  




There are a number of issues that concern the ethnic minorities and autism. These issues need to be addressed and parents, carers and autists are looking for genuine action.


  • DATA COLLECTION no one collects data on ETHNICITY AND AUTISM without data and research it is difficult to do anything constructive.


  • ADVOCACY SERVICES parents have been calling for ethnic minority advocacy services we also need to take into account that for some parents English is not their first language so we need to have bilingual workers in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Punjabi, Tamil, Sinhala, Bengali, Arabic the major African languages.


  • We need to be mindful of the fact that by 2010 major demographic changes will result in the ethnic minorities being the majority in Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and places like Tower Hamlets, Southall, Hounslow, and Tooting. Local councils, LEAs and NS Trusts will need to have culturally appropriate services for people with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome. The message we ought to be giving Her Majestys Government is that they must start this work now or there will be serious problems by 2010.



  • DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION ON AUTISM AND ASPERGERS SYNDROME in the major ethnic minority languages including a section of the website dedicated to the ethnic minorities and that includes information in the major languages.


  • A NETWORK OF BI-LINGUAL WORKERS I would recommend that the NAS set up a network of bi-lingual workers.


  • RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF SEN TEACHERS FROM THE ETHNIC MINORITIES lobby the DfES on a recruitment campaign to attract more teachers from ethnic minority communities.


  • AUTISM WORKSHOPS geared for parents and carers and autists from the ethnic minorities.


  • EM COMMUNITIES AND THE LABOUR MARKET this is an area that has hardly been touched given that the Prime Minister launched a major Strategy Unit Report on Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market. These is an area that we need to lobby hard on there are no national employment schemes nor are there culturally appropriate schemes or any form of advice given to parents, carers and autistic people from the ethnic minorities when it comes to accessing the world of work.


  • PARTNERSHIP WORKING the NAS and other UK organisations will need to work in partnership with various BME Community organisations and groups across the UK and with bodies such as the Commission for Racial Equality.




I would also recommend to the National Autistic Society:


  • That they develop a travelling Roadshow in 2005 in order to get the message across to ethnic minority communities.


  • Organise a major Conference on Ethnic Minorities and Autism/Aspergers Syndrome in late 2004 or early 2005.


  • That the NAS shows true commitment to the ethnic minorities by making changes from within for example appointing someone to the Board of Trustees from the ethnic minorities; creating an Ethnic Minorities Directorate; establishing a Parent network for the ethnic minorities; inviting autistic people from the ethnic minorities to get more involved in the work of the NAS you will need to launch a new drive to make the NAS more inclusive; EM groups to be involved in the work of the APPGA.




THE FIRST EVER SEMINAR ON AUTISM AND THE ETHNIC MINORITIES took place at the King's Fund in London as part of the Autism 2002 Conference heralding 2002 as Autism Awareness Year. Ivan Corea participated in that seminar together with Professor Sam Lingam, Milena Inzani of Autism London and Tayo Igbintade, a parent from the ethnic minorities.

Linda Perham MP, Minister Jacqui Smith MP and Ivan Corea at the Autism 2002 Conference - King's Fund