The Government failed to address the planned reductions in the Employment and Support Allowance and Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) benefit and the chronic shortage in social care funding in today's Autumn Statement.
Responding to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s statement, our charity’s Chief Executive Mark Lever said, “We are very disappointed that there was no mention of social care or disability benefits in today’s Autumn Statement – both critical issues for autistic people and their families.
“Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a vital benefit for autistic people who are not able to work, covering basic living costs like food, heating and clothing. Planned cuts will see new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA, who have been found not yet ready for work, lose £30 per week from April.
“Despite MPs of all parties voting last week to ask the Government to rethink this cut, this afternoon Philip Hammond failed to heed these calls and the planned cuts will go ahead. While he confirmed that the Government would not seek any new welfare savings, this cut will still have a significant negative impact on many autistic people’s lives.
Today’s statement is a missed opportunity to address the increasingly critical shortfall in funding for social care, which many autistic people rely on for their daily basic needs. The crisis in our social care system continues.
There was more positive news, as the Government announced a welcome rise in the Living Wage to £7.50 an hour and that the economy is forecast to create 500,000 new jobs over the next five years. However, our research suggests the autism employment gap has remained static despite an overall increase in the number of people in work. It is vital that these new jobs give autistic people the opportunities they need to get into work.
Finally, the Chancellor said there will be no more Autumn Statements involving major announcements on economic policy. The Chancellor will respond to the Office for Budgetary Responsibilities’ economic forecast twice a year, in spring and autumn. Any announcements about new policy changes will be made during the annual budget, which will be moved from spring to autumn from 2017.