Friday, 1 November 2013

Another postcode lottery, like we needed any more.

Last Friday the Department of Work and Pensions made an eleventh hour announcement that they are amending the timetable for inviting current Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants due to turn 16 to apply for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Given the concerns that Act Now for Autism has continually raised regarding the PIP assessment, and in particular the impact of a face to face assessment for anyone who has as autistic spectrum condition, the announcement should have been good news.

However, the whole process has not been paused. We are now facing a postcode lottery roll-out of PIP, which means that some children who are now approaching their 16th birthday will still likely have to endure a face to face assessment in the coming months. Any child who is living in Wales, the West Midlands, East Midlands, or East Anglia will still be invited to claim for PIP as their 16th Birthday approaches.

Some parents who had already received an invitation for their child to claim PIP have told us this week that following the announcement from the DWP they have received a letter from informing them that their child's DLA award will now continue for another 12 months before they can apply for PIP.

It is well documented and accepted by leading professionals that emotional age of a child with autism is often significantly different to their chronological age. We have already raised concerns about the morality of expecting a 16 year old with autism to endure a face to face assessment and we will continue to do so.

The prospect of their children being subjected to a face to face PIP assessment is creating an enormous amount of stress and anxiety for parent carers. Parents are telling us that their children simply will not be able to cope and account for themselves accurately such an assessment.

We are also hearing from parents who are extremely concerned that their children will not have the historical or medical evidence that we are constantly hearing will be required, before ensuring that a face to face assessment will not be necessary.

Autism is not considered to be a medical condition and there are now many areas across the UK where children are no longer seen on a regular basis by a paediatrician or a health professional who could supply up to date and in depth medical evidence about them. We know that some GP's are now delegating the job of filling in medical questionnaires on to their practice managers who do not even know the patients. Some GP's practices have even stopped filling in the questionnaire altogether as they simply do not have the time to do it and others charge a fee.

Once again we fear that anyone who has a diagnosis of autism is going to be placed at a significant disadvantage to someone who has a medical condition and are seen regularly by a health professional.