Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Dear Mr. Miliband
I am writing on behalf of ACT (Autism Campaigners Together) NOW. We are a campaign and pressure group and have no political affiliation. Importantly, we are not a charity and therefore are not constrained by the rules relating to charities when it comes to campaigning.
Our members and supporters overwhelmingly are people affected by Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) or parents and carers of children and adults with ASC. We are on the frontline 24/7 and collectively have a pre-eminent knowledge and understanding of the practical issues those with ASC or their parents and carers face.
ACT NOW was born in July 2010 from concerns regarding the anticipated cuts in the Comprehensive Spending Review. An Impact Assessment Report was published by ACT NOW in October 2010 (report attached) based on 2,943 pieces of evidence received from parents, carers and adults with autism. We currently have over 7,500 named supporters for the ACT NOW Campaign and our number of supporters is growing daily.
We understand that the Labour Party wishes to re-connect with people. ACT NOW is a frontline group who is connected to its supporters at grass roots level. While we do not provide any direct services we are the genuine voice of those in our communities disadvantaged through autism.
We are asking you to enter into a dialogue with us, not only in respect of our current concerns about the actions of the present government (and it has to be said the previous Labour administration), but also in the formulation of the Labour Party’s policies for the future.
Our current concerns include:
· That there continues to be a frightening lack of understanding and expertise about autism spectrum conditions and how they impact on the lives of those with the condition and their families.
· The unsatisfactory Autism Strategy and the inadequate, woolly Statutory Guidance for local authorities and NHS organisations published by the Department of Health in December 2010
· The cuts being implemented by local authorities across a range of services which are impacting severely on the health and well-being of people affected by ASC and their families.
· The process surrounding Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and Employment & Support Allowance (ESA). We have clear evidence that those making the assessments have little understanding of autism and the impact autism has on the ability to hold down a job. We are aware in one area alone 11 adults with Aspergers Syndrome have all been declared fit for work after being assessed by an ATOS professional.
· Plans to withdraw Legal Aid for individuals wishing to appeal to Tribunals or the Upper Tribunal.
· Lack of representation as a group of people with a complex disability. We are aware that there are no autism specific groups or charities working collaboratively with the Department for Work and Pensions who are currently consulting regarding the abolishment of Disability Living Allowance which will be replaced by Personal Independent Payment.
Many of our supporters are literally sick with worry and foreboding at what the future holds for them.
We hope the Labour Party shares our concerns and are willing to work with us to ensure a better life for those our organisation has been formed to support. We would like to meet with you and/or your Ministers so that we can enter into an open and meaningful dialogue with you and your party.
For & On Behalf of ACT NOW (Autism Campaigners Together)