Local MP warns: "Don't write off people with autism"

November 17, 2009 11:22 AM

Tom Brake MP is backing a National Autistic Society (NAS) campaign to stop adults with autism being written-off by the employment and benefits system. A new report by the NAS reveals a third of people with the condition currently live without a job and without benefits; many are forced to rely on family and friends for help.

Now Tom has signed an EDM (Early Day Motion) that urges the Government to lead the way with a national strategy that meets the employment needs of people with autism. The EDM congratulates the National Autistic Society for its campaign Don't Write Me Off and calls for changes to make the system fair for people with autism.

Tom said, 'People with autism have a great deal to offer and this report shows that many want to work, but are unable to get the help and support they need to fulfil their potential. It is crucial that the Government recognises that people with serious, lifelong and disabling conditions such as autism get the help they need when seeking employment and are supported financially when they cannot work.'

Only 15%* of adults with autism in the UK are in fulltime paid employment. The Don't Write Me Off report reveals that the majority of the over 300,000 working age adults with autism want to work but are being held back by a lack of understanding of autism amongst employment and benefits advisors at Jobcentre Plus and a dearth of specialist employment services. As a result they often experience inadequate job-seeking support, unnecessary and distressing delays in payment, or are being denied essential benefits altogether.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS said: "People with autism say their experiences of the employment and benefits system are marred by anxiety, confusion, delays and discrimination. It is scandalous that thousands of people with autism are being consigned to poverty by a complex and counter-productive benefits system. We are delighted to have the support of Tom Brake MP and strongly urge other MPs to follow his lead. We will keep campaigning until the Government's "no-one written off" pledge is a reality for people with autism."

Research for the Don't Write Me Off report found:

• Almost 80% of people with autism on Incapacity Benefit want to work.

• Over a third said their Disability Employment Advisor's knowledge of autism was "very bad" or "bad".

• Half of people with autism have spent time with neither a job nor benefits with over three quarters of those forced to rely on family and friends as a result.

• Over 82% needed some kind of help to apply for benefits, but few were made aware of their right to an advocate. In the worst cases parents were actively blocked from helping.

The NAS is calling for a national strategy from government to transform access to employment for people with autism across the UK. The charity is also campaigning for a better understanding of autism across all Jobcentre Plus staff and new measures to make the system fair for people with the disability.

To find out more about the campaign, visit: www.autism.org.uk/dontwritemeoff

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