Finally, a reply...
We would like to thank the Minister Esther McVey for responding to our letter dated 11th April via one of our founders Anna Kennedy. We are pleased to hear that she "greatly admires and appreciates the valuable work" that we do, however we are very disappointed that she is unable to meet with us to discuss the concerns we raised again with her about the PIP assessment process (and the WCA) for adults with autism.
We feel the response from the Minister has somewhat missed the point(s) we raised. While we are fully aware that adults with autism are allowed an appointee and encouraged to take a companion with them, during face to face assessments, this does not always happen. Also the very nature of the condition means that some adults with autism will simply not have anyone whom they can ask to accompany them to an assessment.
Her reply is attached, apologies for the quality.
The point that we were hoping to convey is autism impacts on all forms of communication, including written communication. That is why it is essential that an autism specific advocate is offered at the first point of contact by the DWP, ATOS or JobcentrePlus.
We know it is the adults who have not had the support of an advocate, while they are completing their ESA 50 questionnaire, who are most likely to find themselves having a face to face assessment and then being placed wrongly in a Work Related Activity Group whilst facing the trauma of having to launch an appeal.
The point we were hoping to make to the Minister is that the whole assessment process discriminates against autistic adults because they have a communication and socialisation impairment.
Once again we reiterated there are a significant number of autistic adults who do not have the historical or medical data they require for decision makers to make a decision as to whether or not they might have to have a face to face assessment. There are many adults who have been without services and provision after being signed off by Children’s Services.
No services and no provision does not equal someone who is not in need support!
We know that autistic adults are at a distinct disadvantage to other people with disabilities in the current system simply because they have either been unable to access services and provision, or the services and provision did not exist for them to access in the first place.
We are extremely frustrated that no one within the Coalition Government and DWP appears to be able to understand that adults with autism are going to find themselves discriminated against and disadvantaged throughout the whole PIP process, as they are throughout the whole WCA process.
We will write again to the Minister and continue to reiterate these points!