Sunday, 15 July 2012

Carole Asks Ed Miliband About The WCA.

Act Now For Autism campaign manager Carole Rutherford has summarised here her discussion with Labour Leader Ed Miliband about the Work Capability Assessment: 
"I 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.

I stressed 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?"


Patricia said...

well done you :D

Anonymous said...

well done. BUT unfortunately politicians are good at talking - and we are an easy target because very time we protest, so many "normal" people accuse of us of being scroungers. Maybe we should ask them to swop with us for a day then they would change thie minds and support our cause!!

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking out and asking Ed Millerband those very important questions.

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