landscape shot of the Houses of Parliament

 

Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has today made several commitments aimed at improving the benefits system and employment prospects for disabled people. You can watch Amber Rudd’s speech via Periscope TV.

We and many of our supporters have been campaigning for many years to tackle the Autism Employment Gap. Our research suggests that around 1 in 6 autistic people are in full-time paid employment, despite three quarters of unemployed autistic people saying they want to work. This is completely unacceptable.

What's been announced

Our charity welcomes many of today’s announcements, which include:

  • A review of the Government’s target to get one million more disabled people into work by 2027 to see if it should be “more ambitious”
  • A trial of whether applications and assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)/Universal Credit could be brought together into one assessment, and made simpler. These benefits are for different things and so the Government will need to be very careful about how the assessments could be combined
  • People of pension age who receive PIP will no longer have to face regular re-assessments for the benefit
  • A small pilot changing the way that “conditionality” is applied to claimants (relating to ESA and Universal Credit) which would mean that more people could face fewer conditions. If you breach your conditions, you can end up facing sanctions
  • A new Green Paper on ensuring the needs of disabled employees are met with regards to sick pay and occupational health

We have consistently said that the Government’s plans to tackle the disability employment gap must include making sure there is autism-specific support for jobseekers and employers to help autistic people find and stay in work – because the Autism Employment Gap is even wider.

It is also vital that autistic people get the benefits they need. This means the application and assessment process must not only be simpler, but also staffed by officials who understand autistic people’s needs.

Our thoughts

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “Many autistic people will welcome the Government’s proposals on benefits and employment, particularly the commitment to look into a more ambitious target for getting disabled people into work, as long as they are able to work.

“A growing number of employers are recognising autistic people's potential. But our charity’s research has found that only around 1 in 6 autistic people are in full-time paid work, while over three quarters of unemployed autistic people want to work. This is unacceptable.

“At the moment, Government doesn’t officially monitor the number of autistic people in work - this must change. Many autistic people have important skills and talents to offer to employers. But the Government and employers need to give them a chance and put in the right support to find, get and keep the job they want.

“Disability benefits are a lifeline for many autistic people. The Government is right to try to simplify benefit applications and assessments. But, in doing this, they mustn’t lose sight of the different purposes each benefit serves. Officials making decisions on benefits must understand different disabilities and conditions much better than they do today or we will continue to see autistic people denied the funds they need to live with dignity.

“We hope the Secretary of State will also commit to all benefits assessors who assess autistic people having in-depth training on autism and how it affects people’s ability to work and need for support.”

Further information

Read our information about the benefits and care autistic people may be entitled to.