A General Election has been called for Thursday 8 June 2017. The election will be to elect a Member of Parliament, more commonly referred to as an MP, in your local constituency. Usually the political party that wins the most MPs forms the Government.

The next General Election was scheduled to be in May 2020. As this General Election is happening early it is referred to as a ‘snap election’. These types of elections are rare and the last one happened 43 years ago in 1974.

Even though we did not have much notice about this election, it's still really important that people on the autism spectrum have their voice heard. That's why we're launching the I’m One campaign encouraging people on the spectrum and their families to meet their local candidates face-to-face so autism is at the top of their agenda if they're elected.

Each of the political parties will also publish a 'manifesto' for the upcoming election. It contains the set of policies that the party stands for and would wish to implement if elected to govern. But what are the issues that the National Autistic Society would like to see put in a manifesto? And what, more broadly speaking, are the issues we would like to see the Government address?

Employment

The last Government pledged to halve the disability employment gap. We welcomed this pledge at the time as only 47% of disabled people are in work.

However, the autism employment gap is even wider. Only 32% of adults on the autism spectrum are in work, compared to 77% who want to work.

We want all parties to continue to pledge to halve the disability employment gap. If they are to hit this target then the numbers of disabled people in work would need to rise to 64%. This means that the autism employment rate would need to double if they are to hit their target. To achieve this, we want to see the Government commit to an end-to-end employment support programme for people on the autism spectrum.

Awareness amongst employers is also a huge issue with 60% of them saying they wouldn’t know where to turn for support and advice about hiring an autistic person. We want to see the Government address this by launching a new awareness programme, targeted at employers, to encourage them to take on autistic employees.

Finally, we want to see the Government breakdown the disability employment gap by condition, so that we can more effectively see where additional support needs to go.

Benefits

Last year the Government pledged that they would stop any further disability benefits cuts beyond those already agreed. Since then our charity have been deeply concerned about the Government’s changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment criteria. We would ask all parties to pledge that there will be no cuts to disability benefits in their manifestos.

More broadly, we want the Government to ensure that benefits assessors have the right level of autism training to ensure that they are fair and people on the spectrum don’t need to go through the stress of unnecessary appeals.

Health and Social care

For autistic people, social care may pay for daily support to get out and about in the community, support to get up in the morning, help with washing, cooking or cleaning or residential care.

The National Autistic Society is a member of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), a coalition of 90 charities campaigning for more money for social care. The CSA thinks that the parties should pledge more money for social care in their manifestos.

The CSA has also asked the Government for a review that looks at the long-term funding of social care and has asked the Government to ensure that the voices of disabled people who use social care are a part of any review. 

Since our Autism Diagnosis Crisis campaign, our charity has been working behind the scenes to continue to make sure waiting times are brought down. We are also keen to ensure that mental health services are made more accessible to autistic people.

Education

With the right support, children with autism can achieve great things at school and gain skills that allow them to thrive. Yet far too many children with autism are not getting the support they need to get the education that they deserve, and too many parents face a daily battle to get help for their child.

74% of parents who responded to a National Autistic Society survey say it has not been easy to get the educational support their child needs. We know education will be a big part of the party manifestos and we’ll be looking to see if support for children with Special Educational Needs are protected.

In the next Parliament, we want to see the Government tackle the lack of autism provision in schools. This is both in terms of the numbers of places in special schools, and ensuring that the ambitions of Children and Families Act are fully funded and implemented. To do this we’ll be looking to continue our inquiry on autism and education that we launched last month.

Autism Awareness

Whilst 99.5% of people have heard of autism, only 16% of people on the autism spectrum think that the public understands autism in any meaningful way.

Successive Governments have done brilliant jobs at raising the profile of issues like mental health and dementia and we’d like to see the next Government making the same commitment on the issue of autism.

Our Too Much Information campaign has led to millions more people understanding that things like meltdowns and information overload are traits associated with autism, but with Government backing we could achieve so much more.

The Autism Act

2019 will be the tenth anniversary of the landmark Autism Act. The act has seen improvements in autism services across the country but implementation is still patchy and the Government has a long way to go if it is to fully implement the autism act.

There will also be a review of the Autism Act strategy in 2019, meaning the next Government has a great opportunity to review what the act has achieved and review what more needs to be done to fully implement this landmark piece of legislation.

Find out how you can get involved with our charity’s 2017 General Election Campaign.