Cyber Bullying and Autism. Parliamentary Meeting with Officials from the Department of Education

December 10, Portcullis House, Westminster, London, UK – A parliamentary meeting took place between party officials from the Department of Education, Chris Flynn, Nigel Fulton and Maria Hutchings and Hayley Smith, who were speaking on behalf of Kevin Healey who is currently campaigning for laws to better protect autistic individuals from cyber bullying and hate crime. The meeting discussed issues surrounding cyber bullying and autism.

The following are taken from official notes documented in the meeting.

Maria Hutching and Hayley Smith made the following points:

They outlined the problems of bullying which are faced by autistic individuals.

‘Cyber bullying in particular is a problem given that those suffering from autism spend so much time on social media.’

Kevin Healey and his campaign were discussed as well as his involvement with the Staffordshire Adult Autistic Society (SAAS) and Autism Europe.

The global nature of his Autism Anti Bullying Campaign was discussed which has secured the support of MEP Phil Bennion.

Social media was discussed:

‘They argued that social media platforms, such as Twitter, are not doing enough to protect their users with conditions such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome and outlined examples of the cyber-bullying cases they had encountered.’

Both Maria Hutchings and Hayley Smith called for ‘stronger laws on cyber bullying and hate crime’.

At present they are pushing for a debate on this issue in the European Parliament.

‘Enhanced legislation on cyber bullying with a particular focus on regulating social media such as ask.fm, twitter and Facebook.’

They both believe that there needs to be better education on the use of social media and the associated problems of cyber bullying for children with SEN, Autism and children without disability.

Chris Flynn and Nigel Fulton made the following points

‘They acknowledged the difficulties faced by those with autism for the reasons that Maria and Hayley had explained.’

The cross departmental nature of the policy was addressed and that the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) was set up to address these issues.

The responsibility of legislating social media and the issues of cyber bullying will fall on The Department of Culture Media and Sport.

£4m of funding will be given over 2 years from spring 2013 to 4 organisations to tackle bullying. Including Kidscape and the Diana Award. £1.5m will be given to the National Children’s Bureau consortium who will focus upon children and young people with SEN who are bullied.

Through the Diana Award, 10,000 pupils will become anti bullying Ambassadors

Reforms in the national curriculum are to take place from September 2014. E – Safety will be included in the curriculum:

‘The new programmes of study for Key Stages 1-4, set out that pupils should be taught to communicate safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private, and recognise common uses of information technology beyond school.’

The Government is funding the Autism Education Trust to provide training for staff involved in the early years, schools and further education.

‘The training which all new SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) in schools must undertake includes training on the most prevalent types of SEN, including autism.’

The information provided is taken from the official parliamentary notes dated December 11 2013 by Chris Flynn