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First Published Tuesday, 29th July, 2008.

Westminster

NAS responds to Welfare Reform Green Paper

The Government published its Welfare Reform Green Paper on 21 July 2008. The green paper sets out the Government’s ideas for welfare reform. The National Autistic Society (NAS) has concerns about these proposals, and making sure that the Government addresses the needs of people with autism as it proceeds with the Welfare Reform Green Paper is one of our top priorities.

There are several major reforms proposed in the green paper.

  • Existing Incapacity Benefit claimants will be moved onto the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefit from 2009.
  • Existing Incapacity Benefit claimants will be expected to take part in Pathways to Work.
  • People receiving ESA will be required to undertake certain work-related activity to retain their full benefit.

This means that many people with autism currently claiming Incapacity Benefit will have to start attending work-focused interviews and draw up an action plan that will identify things they could do that would help them get a job. People will also be required to undertake work-related activity and this could include work tasters and help searching for jobs.

Many newspapers have led with headlines about people being required to ‘work for benefit’. This applies to Jobseekers Allowance claimants, who in the future will be required to work full-time for their benefit if after two years they have failed to find work. The NAS is firmly opposed to people with autism being forced into inappropriate work placements.

What is Employment Support Allowance?
Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will replace Incapacity Benefit from 27 October 2008. It was introduced in the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the NAS worked hard to ensure that the needs of people with autism were recognised in the new benefit. As a result of this, the new assessment that will be used for ESA will take better account of the needs of people with autism than the assessment used for Incapacity Benefit.

People claiming ESA will be placed in one of two groups. People with the highest support needs will be placed in the support group while people who, with the right support, could find work will be placed in the work-related activity group. People in this second group will be required to attend work-focused interviews to discuss things they could do to help them get a job. People in the support group will receive a higher rate of benefit than people in the work-related activity group.

People with autism have valuable skills to offer prospective employers and we welcome the recognition that many people with autism want to work. However, the Government must work harder to address the gaps in understanding, opportunity and ongoing employment support for people with autism.

Our key concerns
The NAS is concerned that:

  • people carrying out work-focused interviews will not have training in the needs of people with autism
  • provision to help people return to work will be generalist and people with autism will not receive the right support
  • people with autism may miss work-focused interviews or not complete work-related activity due to a lack of appropriate support yet will risk a cut in their benefits for this.

The NAS will be engaging with all its supporters to ensure that we make it clear to the Government that people with autism have the right to be able to access specialist support that is tailored to their needs, to help them into employment. We are currently drafting a full response to the Green Paper, working with officials at the Department for Work and Pensions, and are briefing MPs on our concerns. It is vital that people with autism are not disadvantaged further and that this agenda directly addresses their needs.

Media response: Welfare Reform Green Paper

The National Autistic Society (NAS) today voiced concerns that the Government’s welfare reform proposals may mean thousands of people with autism miss out on crucial support.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, said:

“As a lifelong social and communication disorder, autism impacts on every aspect of daily life. Many people with the disability want to work, but experience great difficulty in finding and staying in employment often due to inadequate support and misunderstandings related to their condition. There are over 300,000 working age adults with autism and without appropriate support these people are effectively excluded from the workforce.

“The NAS is deeply concerned that further welfare reform will see a move towards larger and, therefore, more generic providers of disability support that simply will not be effective for people with the condition, as the level of support people with autism require is not always obvious and varies greatly. Target-driven providers keen to get people into jobs are also likely to ignore those people with autism, who may require more specialist long term support.

“It is absolutely essential that employment advisors understand the complexities of autism and individuals needs. Without this people with autism may face inappropriate compulsory work programmes which could cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. If they are unable to complete these programmes, people will face a loss of benefit.

“People with autism have many valuable skills to offer prospective employers and want to make a positive contribution. With only 15% of adults with autism currently in full time paid employment, the Government must work harder to address the gaps in understanding, opportunity and ongoing employment support for people with autism.”


Related Resources
Welcome to Prospects
Benefits and welfare rights
think differently about autism

Source:  http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=241&a=16982



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