Autistic man at a bus stop with a woman

Our charity has welcomed the ruling in a legal case that we have been involved in on Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The courts have ruled that the Government’s changes to eligibility for PIP made earlier this year were discriminatory towards people who experienced psychological distress in planning and following a journey.

We opposed the changes because we know that many autistic people can find it difficult to make new and unfamiliar journeys because it makes them very anxious.

They might worry about the route, or unexpected changes. This can mean that they sometimes won’t go out because of their anxiety. We were worried that the changes meant this wouldn’t be properly being taken into account in the assessment and so would mean that autistic people would miss out.

The ruling

Today’s ruling means that the Government has been told by the court to scrap their changes and that psychological distress will be better accounted for in making decisions about the benefit. However, this won’t happen immediately, because there may be an appeal.

The case was brought by an individual with mental health problems against new rules on eligibility for the benefit that were introduced by the Government in March.

The new rules had set out that in the mobility component of PIP, some aspects of eligibility for “planning and following a journey” would no longer include situations that cause the individual “overwhelming psychological distress”.  As a result, claimants would have needed to prove that they cannot carry out a journey without another person or assistance, rather than showing the distress that the journey might cause.

Many autistic people can find it difficult to make new and unfamiliar journeys because it makes them very anxious and may need to mitigate this by for example taking a taxi. This is why we opposed the Government’s changes and gave evidence to the case on the impact of the changes for autistic adults.

We are pleased that the courts have agreed with us! We will put up updates when we know if the Government is appealing.

Sarah Lambert, The National Autistic Society’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs who gave evidence to the court, said:

This ruling is hugely significant for many autistic adults, who struggle to make new and unfamiliar journeys because of anxiety and psychological distress. 

We opposed the changes the Government made earlier this year, which removed psychological distress as a factor in assessing eligibility for mobility payments and we gave evidence in this case, because we knew how serious the impact of this change was on autistic adults.

“So we are very pleased that the courts have agreed that the changes were discriminatory and that the new rules should be quashed. We will be watching carefully to see if the Government appeals, but we strongly urge them to think again and make sure that this crucial benefit is available for autistic adults.”