Thursday, 17 February 2011
We live in a society where people are neatly placed into the little boxes that have been created to ensure that we all have a box into which we fit.
The biggest issue that people with autism have always had is that they simply to do not ‘fit into’ any of the boxes which were created.
You would think that it would be a simple matter of making sure that they made a box especially for autism. That way autism would then have a space all to itself without forever having to be the ‘cuckoo’ in the disability nest. No such luck. For years and years children and adults with autism have been made, and continue to be made, to ‘fit into’ boxes which were never created with autism in mind.
The plans for welfare reform were rolled out today with the emphasis that this will be something that everyone can do, and that the vast majority of people who are on ‘sickness benefits’ could find themselves a job with a little bit of support, and quite a lot of money being given to, the people who will soon be rolled out to support them.
In a society where ‘personalisation’ has been the buzz word for quite a few years now there was not a hint of personalisation coming through in what ACT NOW has heard or read today. People with disabilities are all going to be forced into the same box and all measured with the same yard stick – Works Capability Assessments.
But how do you measure the disability of someone who has never yet fit into any one of the boxes that were already in existence? You can not.
The WCA is not designed to wrap around anyone who has a complex 'does not fit into this box' disability.
Last week ACT NOW had a letter from Chris Grayling who assured us that the Atos assessors who will be carrying out the WCA have all been correctly and appropriately trained. This does not fit with the reports of how these assessments are working out for people with autism that are being received by ACT NOW.
Worryingly Mr Grayling also states that any additional medical evidence that is presented to an Atos assessor by an adult with a disability will be treated as purely secondary information.
Anyone else hear huge clanging alarm bells here?
Mr Grayling states that clinicians do not routinely consider the impact that a disability a person has will impact on their ability to function, saying that it is unlikely that clinicians will have had any specific training in assessing disabilities in their medical training. Atos assessors are specifically trained in the assessment of disability and that these medical disability analysts will be able to provide an accurate and consistent assessment of functional restrictions.
The clue word here is ‘medical’. Autism is not a ‘medical’ condition. So are these disability analysts specifically trained in assessing disabilities whose roots lie in impairments which are wrapped around communication, socalisation and imagination? This is something that we will be asking Mr Grayling.
The reality is that the national roll out of the WCA will begin from 28th February and adults with autism will be assessed using a yard stick which is not fit to measure their complex disability.
ACT NOW believes that it is cruel and immoral to subject any human being to an assessment which was not specifically designed to include their condition.
In an ideal world everyone who wanted to work would be able to do so. In the real world however it is estimated that only 15% of adults with autism do work. This is not because adults with autism are a workshy group of people this is because employing an adult with autism requires employers to ‘think outside of their box’ and provide the kind of support for an adult with autism that adults with other disabilities might not require.
It is not as simple as widening a door for an adult with autism or ensuring that there are suitably adapted toilet facilities for them to use. The adjustments that adults with autism require are much more personalised than that and that is where part of the problem for adults with autism who want to work lies. The reasonable adjustments that would have to be made for them are not the tick box adjustments that would have to be made for other people with disabilities to enable them to work.
While only 15% of adults with autism are in full time employment 40% of adults with other disabilities are in full time employment. This means that even within disability adults with autism are marginalised.
Surely somewhere in our BIG society there are people who can effectively think outside of ‘their’ box to ensure that people who have complex disabilities, who are amongst some of the most vulnerable adults in our society, are recognised as existing and that they will require a degree of personalisation.
People do after all come in all shapes and sizes and so should assessments. It must also be recognised that some people with disabilities will never be able to seek or successfully maintain employment. That does not make their life any less worth living – does it?