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The world-first Down Syndrome Bill lays the ground for an Act putting those with the condition on an equal footing with other groups. It means councils, schools and other bodies must meet their specific needs, instead of treating them more broadly as disabled people. Line Of Duty’s Tommy Jessop, the first actor with Down syndrome to star in a prime-time BBC drama, helped lead a campaign.
He was joined by former Tory cabinet minister Liam Fox, who brought the Bill forward, and the National Down Syndrome Policy Group (NDSPG). Tommy, 36, who played Terry Boyle in the hit drama, said: “Everyone needs help now and then. We just need chances in life like anyone else.”
CBBC presenter George Webster, an NDSPG founding officer, said: “I think everyone like me with Down syndrome will get better healthcare, more access to services and be more included in society.”
People with Down syndrome, also known as Down’s syndrome, are born with an extra chromosome. The majority are placed in special needs schools, even though many could go to mainstream ones. They are now far more likely to outlive their parents. Life expectancy is 50-60 – more than double that in the 1980s.
Dr Fox said his Bill aimed to “destigmatise” the condition, improve services and deal with issues like long-term care. Care minister Gillian Keegan, who has a nephew with Down syndrome, said the Bill would make a “significant difference to ensuring health, education, social care and housing needs are met”.
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