Monday, 13 December 2010
Letter sent via email to Chris Grayling MP, Minister of State for Employment, Department for Work and Pensions
Dear Mr. Grayling
I am writing on behalf of ACT NOW (Autism Campaigners Together). ACT NOW was founded by seven parent carers and adults with autism in July of this year, following the June 22nd budget which announced the cuts to Local Authorities and PCTs and the proposed assessments that will be carried out on adults, and possibly children, who are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
The budget cuts and benefit assessments are a huge cause of concern, not only to the founder members of ACT NOW but also to the 6,000 members of the autism community who are actively supporting the ACT NOW Campaign.
On the 22nd of November this year Anas Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, asked you what training health care professionals carrying out the Works Capability Assessments receive on autism and if training forms part of their continuing professional development. You responded to this question by stating:-
‘All health care professionals working for ATOS Healthcare who carry out assessments for employment and support allowance are issued with evidence-based protocols on mental health conditions, including information on Autistic Spectrum Disorders, as part of their induction training.
In addition, all health care professionals are required to engage in a programme of continuing medical education. ATOS, in conjunction with DWP have developed a number of training modules in Autistic Spectrum Disorders to support this programme. These include a "learning set" on ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome for employed health care professionals, a distance learning module with accompanying DVD on Asperger Syndrome for sessional doctors and a presentation on Autism at a medical conference attended by all employed health care professionals in 2008. ATOS have also developed and issued a further distance learning module for sessional doctors called "Life with Autism - seeing the individual" this year (2010).’
ACT NOW would like to have clarification on what is included in the autism training modules that have been developed by ATOS and the DWP. We would also like to know if the DWP and ATOS are now skills based organisations and accredited/licensed trainers? Who, if anyone, helped ATOS and the DWP to develop these modules? Is the training being monitored and evaluated and who, if anyone, oversees the training and how often and when will this be done? Furthermore is this training mandatory and what legislation sets this out and how will the training be delivered and over what time frame? is there a deferral process?
ACT NOW are very concerned by reports that we are receiving from individuals and groups regarding the ATOS assessors who appear to have had no appropriate training in Autistic Spectrum Conditions. We are being told that the ATOS assessors are not taking this evidence into account when making their decisions. We are aware that in one area alone 10 individuals with autism have been declared ‘fit to work’ after being assessed by an ATOS assessor. We have had additional reports from ACT NOW supporters of this happening in other areas. ACT NOW would like reassurance that all of the ATOS assessors are suitably trained and that the training which they are receiving is accredited and being overseen by independent means.
We would like to request a meeting with you so that we can further discuss the concerns of the ACT NOW Campaigners and our supporters. It is vitally important that the autism community feel confident that our adults with autism will be assessed by professionals who fully understand the complexities of autism.
We look forward to an early response to this letter.