The Down Syndrome Act 2022 (the Act) was passed on 28 April 2022.
To set the Act in context, it is specified at the outset that its purpose is “to make provision about meeting the needs of persons with Down syndrome; and for connected purposes.”
The key purpose of the Act is that it places a requirement on the Secretary of State to issue guidance to public bodies on the steps that it is appropriate for them to take to meet the needs of individuals living with Down syndrome.
Those public bodies are required to have ‘due regard’ to the guidance. This means that they must take into account guidance issued for the purpose of meeting the needs of persons with Down syndrome when carrying out their public functions, including making policy decisions, and cannot ignore it.
This doesn't mean that the guidance necessarily has to be followed to the letter, but it must be an important consideration. There could well be possible legal challenges if it is arguable that the public body acted wholly unreasonably or unlawfully in not following the guidance, or if it is completely disregarded.
The schedule to the Act sets out the range of public bodies that are covered by the requirement to have due regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. These are bodies that fall within the NHS, social care, housing, education and youth offending.
It is very fitting to acknowledge the potential of the Act on World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March, which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.
Irwin Mitchell is proud to sponsor again the National Down Syndrome Policy Group’s (NDSPG) annual event which this year is marking Down Syndrome Day with a tea reception at the House of Commons. The event will be an opportunity to celebrate achievements of the Down syndrome community and discuss progress of the Act under the theme of 'With us, not for us.'
The event will be attended by members of the Down syndrome community and their families, members of the Policy Group’s advisory group, charities, and members of the House of Commons and House of Lords.
I will be attending the event and delivering a short speech.
I believe it's really important to ensure that services delivered by public bodies, including those listed in the Down Syndrome Act 2022, are as accessible as possible to the community.
We pride ourselves at Irwin Mitchell on providing comprehensive and holistic social welfare legal advice and support to individuals and organisations, with the underlying aim of empowering them and promoting autonomy.
Alongside the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Care Act 2014, the Down Syndrome Act should be celebrated as a real achievement in giving rights to people with learning disabilities.
Find out more on Irwin Mitchell's support of the Down Syndrome Act