The Q&As below will help you write your response to the Government’s consultation in advance of their Improving Lives: the work, health and disability green paper. They explain our charity's point of view on different aspects of how the Government could support autistic people into work better.
What difficulties have you or an autistic person you know had in trying to find a job?
Only 16% autistic people are in full time work, and only another 16% are in part time work. But we know that most unemployed autistic people want to work.
In our survey, the most common reason for not being in work was lacking confidence (23% said this). It’s really important autistic people get the support they need to find a job, but 6 in 10 people responding told us that they’re experiences of Jobcentre Plus were negative.
Autistic people can find job applications and interviews difficult. In our survey, only a small number (11%) of people who disclosed they are autistic were asked if they needed any reasonable adjustments. Other methods, like work trials, can be helpful for autistic people.
What would you need from employment support (like at the Jobcentre)?
Would this be specialist services or advisors, or something else?
Many autistic people say that Jobcentre Plus staff don't treat them as individuals, or think about the particular adjustments they need. They also say that employment support programmes like the Work Programme don’t meet their needs or understand autism.
We think that all staff providing support in Jobcentre Plus should have appropriate training – above general awareness. We also think that autistic people should be able to get help from specialist employment support services outside Jobcentre Plus that understand autism.
What difficulties have you or an autistic person you know had in staying in work?
How could an employer support autistic employees well?
The autistic people in our survey have had mixed experiences. Some have great employers who know about their autism and create supportive environments and approaches to work.
Others react badly by, for example, doing nothing to adapt their employee’s environment or work. Over a third (35%) said that the support or adjustments made by their current or most recent employer, both in relation to sensory needs or in relation to their autism generally, were poor or very poor.
Busy workplaces can be socially overwhelming and can overload people with too much information. This might be noisy conversation, bright lights or other sensory stimuli. Employers can overcome problems like these quickly, easily and cheaply, through spreading understanding or simple adaptations to the environment.
We think it is really important that employers check if autistic people need any changes, and make sure that colleagues understand autism.
Should employment support be offered to everyone on benefits like ESA?
Should people be told they have to do this, or should it be voluntary?
Most unemployed autistic people who responded to our survey want to work (77%). But they told us that they struggle to get the right support. Some of these people will get benefits like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and will have been found that they are not able to work at the moment. If they would like to start some training or get support to help them develop skills, we think this should be offered to them.
But we think that this should be up to the autistic person. We think that some benefits rules and 'mandatory activity' can disadvantage autistic people, who might find it hard to process information or follow unclear instructions.
We do not think that autistic people who have been put in the Support Group for ESA should have to do training if they don’t want to – because they are not able to work.
How should the Government change the way it assesses whether people should get benefits like ESA?
What would be helpful to you?
Many autistic people tell us that they don’t think that assessments like the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) work for them. Some say that the assessment wasn’t done by a person that understands autism. We think it’s really important that anyone assessing the needs of an autistic person should have the training to understand that person and their needs.
The Green Paper asks if the assessment should be split in two:
- one to decide how much benefit you should get
- one to decide what employment support they should get.
We think that this could work for some autistic people – for example, someone who needs a lot of support to be ready for employment, but wants to work and at the moment doesn’t get any employment support.
But we think that this needs the assessor to really understand autism. We also think that the Government needs to make sure that there are enough good services that understand autism, to offer this support. And finally, we do not think that autistic people should face penalties or be made to do training (sometimes called 'mandatory activity').
There are also some autistic people who have very high support needs and who are unlikely to be able to work. The Government has announced that people whose high support needs are never likely to change won’t have to be reassessed for ESA or Universal Credit.
We think this is a good idea as it could mean that some autistic people can avoid the stress and anxiety caused by assessments. We think it is important that the assessment identifies the right autistic people for this group.