Autism and Austerity

From the TUC handbook, Autism in the Workplace 

“We know that LAs [local authorities] have had their budgets slashed and are making cuts which are impacting on adults with autism and families living with autism. Families are being told that they will have to re-apply for Direct Payments and respite is being shaved and in some cases cut altogether. Provision to support families is also being removed.
“We are concerned that these cuts will make it even harder for children and adults to access provision. We are concerned that even more adults will continue to fall through the cracks, especially those without a generic learning disability and that the postcode lottery that we currently have will continue to spread.
“It is difficult to imagine that the Adult Autism Strategy Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives – Increasing Awareness and Understanding of Autism (England) and The Autism Strategy (Scotland) will be able to deliver what had been hoped by the autism community. It is difficult to imagine that new services for both children and adults will be commissioned while LAs and CCGs struggle to maintain the services that they are already delivering.
“The wider implications of the cuts that the voluntary sector will experience will result in higher volumes of families and adults contacting them for support and information. This will place a considerable burden on the voluntary sector who are already struggles in the face of cuts to their budgets from statutory bodies.
“Charity used to be the icing on the cake – now charity IS the cake.”
Act Now for Autism

Examples of cuts and campaigns

Nottinghamshire’s Adults with Asperger’s Team is estimated to have supported at least 10 per cent of the adult population living with Asperger syndrome in the county. When Nottinghamshire County Council considered disbanding the team as part of its plans to make £154m cuts, campaigners organised lobbying and protests. The Council dropped the plan and continues to run the service.

In August 2013, concern was expressed that health cuts were leading to people with autism being left undiagnosed in some local authority areas in Scotland. NHS Grampian made cuts to its diagnosis service for local adults with autism; the National Autistic Society Scotland (NAS) said that was symptomatic of wider problems with diagnosis across Scotland.

Austerity-driven cuts to public services may also impact on people with autism – both workers and service users.

Statement by Autistic-UK on London Underground cuts, January 2014:
“London Underground has announced that it plans to close all its ticket offices and remove up to 1,000 staff from its stations. The company states that it is consulting on these plans, so we hope it takes notice of our objections.
“Autism is a neurological difference, and autistic people may experience difficulties with social and communication issues. Public transport, including London Underground, is essential to allowing autistic children and adults to access services and participate in society, but can be a difficult environment. It can trigger sensory overload and can cause extreme distress when there is unexpected disruption or an emergency. Moreover, we may find automated ticketing systems hard to use and – with only 15 per cent of autistic adults in full-time employment – can not necessarily access online payment methods.
“For these reasons, the presence of staffed ticket offices and adequate numbers of staff on stations is essential to enable autistic people’s access to London Underground. The plans announced by LUL will only serve to exclude autistic people and further our social isolation.
“We strongly urge London Underground Ltd to rethink.”

Work Capability Assessments

In January 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling made the previous May which found that the process used to decide whether hundreds of thousands of people are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) disadvantages people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health problems. The Court ruled that autistic people and others were disadvantaged by the process of gathering evidence for Work Capability Assessments.

In Europe

“Amidst the recent budget cuts and austerity measures being implemented in many European countries, people with Autism are suffering significant cuts to the basic services they depend on for housing, health and education. How long can we go on cutting spending on the most vulnerable people in society? Can sacrificing human rights to save money possibly achieve positive outcomes?”
Nikki Sullings, Autism-Europe, 2011

Italy: 10 billion euro in funding cut in 2012–2013 from regional and local health and social services.

Greece: 40 per cent cut to the state’s financial contribution to non-government organisations and charities that provide essential services to people with Autism, including supported living centres, announced in 2011.

Evelyne Friedel, President, Autism-Europe President:
“We are seeing these funding cuts across many European countries.
“Providing support to people with disabilities is a human right – the governments of Europe have confirmed that when they signed the Convention [United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, December 2010].
“It’s not acceptable to put the rights of people with disabilities aside when financial difficulties arise.
“Governments and the European Union institutions must ensure that their commitments under the UNCRPD are fulfilled and that persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders benefit from the same opportunities as the rest of Europe’s citizens.”

Download Page Content (.pdf)