Act Now For Autism is a core group of people passionate about the future and well-being of children and adults with autism and associated conditions in the UK.
Act Now For Autism are campaigning against aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill, specifically the WCA, Work Programme and the impact of the changeover to Universal Credit and PIP. We are ardently campaigning for advocacy to be offered to anyone who has to have a face-to-face assessment.
Act Now For Autism campaign manager Carole Rutherford has summarised here her discussion with Labour Leader Ed Miliband about the Work Capability Assessment:
was given the opportunity to take part in a question and answer session
with Ed Miliband on Friday evening at a pre Durham Miners Gala event. Never one to let an opportunity to open
my mouth go to waste I decided to attend along with my husband!
Gathered were approximately 100 people who all wanted to
ask Ed a question, he gave a very brief speech and then
got down to the reason we were all there.
I only waited about
20 minutes before I got the opportunity to ask him a question: will the Labour Party do something about the Work
Capability Assessment, which is creating immense anxiety and stress for
adults with autism who have to have a face to face assessment?
I backed my question up by telling him what the mere thought of
an assessment has done to the eldest of my two autistic sons. The
knowledge that he has to have this assessment has impacted so
badly on my son’s mental health that we have had to seek medical help. (I
also pointed out that it took us over a year to find that help.)
Ed then asked me a couple of questions about my sons and our situation which I was happy to answer.
I was very fortunate that he was willing to listen me tell him
that there are thousands of families across the UK who are living the
same lives as we are. He listened carefully to my list of
concerns about the WCA assessment and how it is impacting on the lives
of adults with autism. I pulled no punches, telling him that we at Act Now
for Autism are hearing from adults across the UK, some of whom are on the brink of a breakdown; some would rather
do without their benefits than ever have to have an assessment again. Some have said that the assessment has brought thoughts of suicide
and fear into their lives.
I then spoke about the number of
decisions regarding the WCA that were being overturned at tribunal. I
stressed that the hidden cost in all of this was the emotional well-being
of the adults who are having their lives turned upside down by the
process. Even if a decision is overturned at
tribunal we are hearing that Atos are reassessing adults within four
months of them winning their appeal, which means that we have adults
with autism living in a permanent state of heightened anxiety.
that the WCA is simply not fit for purpose and said at the very least we should expect that the tool which is being used is actually fit for purpose. Adults
with autism have substantial difficulties with both communication and
socialisation and yet advocates are not being offered as a matter of
course at the very beginning of the process. I said that from next year
adults would be subjected to a Personal Independence Payment assessment as well
as the WCA and this was also causing great concern within our community - it will be too much.
I then returned to my question and asked what Labour would do about the
Work Capability Assessment if they were returned to power? Ed Miliband said they will have to look again at this assessment as they are hearing too many times
that there is something wrong with it for there not to be
something in what they are hearing.
I think that this was as much as I could hope for at an informal question and answer session.
I then took the plunge to speak again and I said that many of us feel
that we have been demonised by the press. I said that a way had to be
found to differentiate between people who do try to play the system and
those who have lifelong disabilities. Mr Miliband responded by
saying that Labour will have to challenge rhetoric to ensure that
everyone is not seen in the same light.
I do feel as if I was
listened to. I did not expect any firm promises but I do think that we
now have something that we can pursue with the leader of the Labour
Party: what exactly will he and his party do as part of looking again at the Work Capability Assessment?"