Government announced Jobcentre Plus staff are to receive autism training.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) celebrated the move, in response to their Don't write me off campaign, along with a raft of new measures to tackle the routine isolation, ignorance and inequality routinely experienced by people with autism in England.
The adult autism strategy states that all new and existing Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) will have autism training and recommends that awareness training in autism is given to all people working in the public sector. The NAS is now calling for the strategy's delivery plan, due out later this month, to set out clear and concrete measures to improve Jobcentre Plus customer services and benefits processes for adults with autism.
Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS and chair of the strategy's external reference group said; "Too many people with autism say their experiences of the employment and benefits system are marred by anxiety, confusion, delays and discrimination. It is absolutely vital that people with this serious, lifelong and disabling condition are able to access the right help and services if seeking employment and are supported financially when they cannot work. This long awaited strategy is the first step to ensuring they will be able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the rest of society. Now, we want to see this backed by a strong delivery plan that will achieve real and lasting change."
The Don't write me off campaign revealed that adults with autism are experiencing a multitude of problems applying for the new Employment and Support Allowance including: communicating on the phone, filling in complex forms, poor medical assessments, being misdirected to the wrong benefits and not even being asked about their disability. As a result people with the condition often experience inadequate job-seeking support, unnecessary and distressing delays in payment or are being denied essential benefits altogether. Just 15% are in full time paid employment.*
Anya Ustaszewski, vice chair of the ERG and an adult with autism said:
"A lack of support can leave people with autism isolated and vulnerable. An exciting milestone has been reached with the publication of the strategy. We want to be able to feel happy, safe and accepted and have equal and fair access to choice and opportunities in our lives. We should all be able to fulfill our true potential as autistic individuals." v Research for the NAS Don't write me off report found:
Around a third of adults with autism - that's 100,000 - live without a job and without essential benefits
Over a third of people with autism said their Disability Employment Advisor's knowledge of autism was "very bad" or "bad".
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.
For more information about the Don't write me off campaign visit www.autism.org.uk/dontwritemeoff