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January 2011



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Some people with autism in Northern Ireland have spent over a decade without a job or benefits, it has been revealed. 

Only one in ten with the condition have a full-time job. The National Autistic Society wants the government to provide greater help in applying for benefits and looking for work.

A spokeswoman for the society said: “It is completely unacceptable that so many adults with autism are simply being written off and denied the opportunity to reach their individual potential.

“We believe that all adults with autism deserve a job when they can work, benefits when they can’t and a government that leads the way in making this happen.”

Around one in 100 people in Northern Ireland cope with autism and the number of children with it is rising every year. The society surveyed a group of affected adults. It found a third are without a job or benefits and over half have spent time in that position, some for over a decade.

It said 15% had a full-time job but 79% of those on incapacity benefit want to work and 82% of those who applied for benefits said they needed support to do so.

The society called on the Department of Social Development to ensure people applying for benefits are asked at the start of their application whether they have a disability.

It said sick notes for the new Employment and Support Allowance for people who can’t work due to illness should be scrapped. The spokeswoman added: “Autism is a lifelong disability so to require someone to produce a sick note from their doctor is demoralising and inappropriate and for many results in delays in receiving their benefit.”

She said the Department of Employment and Learning should produce an Employment Strategy for people with autism.

“This would raise awareness of autism amongst employers and ensure that the right support is put in place to enable people with autism to access employment and get the support they need to remain in the workplace,” she added.


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