In July 10th 2010 Act Now for Autism took the first steps of a campaign journey that continues on into 2013. In this new year we will review the Impact Assessment we produced in July 2010, we want to know how and where the cuts and changes to benefits are impacting on lives across the UK.
We continue to believe that the WCA is not fit for purpose and in 2013 we intend to add our voice to the campaign for a cumulative impact assessment on the WCA and ESA.
2013 will be the year when we will all really start to feel the impact of the cuts and changes to our services and our entire benefit system. The coming new year will see all the changes become a reality.
We will see the roll out of Universal Credit for new claimants, which will see the disability element cut. Families will feel the impact of the bedroom tax from April. People will begin to apply for PIP and move over from DLA, a new system and benefit that will include having a face to face assessment in addition to the face to face assessments that some adults with autism are already enduring as part of the ESA Work Capability Assessments.
Adults with autism must be offered access to an advocate at the first point of contact for both the WCA and a PIP assessment.
Changes to funding means that parents continue to fight to prove that their autistic children are disabled enough to warrant services and provision. Act Now For Autism fears that the changeover from statements for children with SEN to Education and Health Plans (England) will do nothing to improve this situation. In Scotland the rollout of the Getting It Right For Every Child strategy is causing concern as is the change to Self Directed Support.
2013 will be the year we must double our efforts - we will need your help. Autism continues to be misunderstood and under-represented. Even within the disability forum at large, children and adults with autism can be marginalised because autism can be a hidden disability.
The English Autism Strategy ‘Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives’ will be reviewed this year and that is something that Act Now For Autism will be taking a keen interest and hopefully an active part in.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism has written to Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Commons' influential Public Accounts Committee, expressing its concern about the limited progress being made in implementing the Autism Act 2010. Act Now For Autism shares those concerns. There is no level playing field and no national baseline for the implementation of the strategy. It is therefore difficult to measure any overall progress that has been made. We are concerned about the accuracy of monitoring the progress of the strategy within Local Authorities via a self assessment framework. Any assessment should include both service users and the views of those who have been unable to access services that they believe that they require.
We will be pressing hard for autism specific advocates to be given a high priority in the Strategy when it is updated. We believe that having access advocates for adults with autism has become essential and that need will increase again with the roll out of PIP.
We would also like to see much more in the strategy that would move progress towards the needs of adults with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism being met.
In Scotland the main focus will be the continuing implementation of the Scottish Autism Strategy, we also want to make sure autistic adults of all abilities are catered for. £1.12 million was made available to local authorities to develop strategies and action plans. Local autism co-ordinators are mostly in post now and the strategy continues to be monitored. We will be pressing for autism specific advocates in Scotland too and more robust measures in place for transition into adulthood across the country. We also would like to see better use of the Additional Support for Learning legislation and for the Getting It Right For Every Child ethos to provide better focus on the individual needs of autistic children.
In Wales there was a consultation earlier in the year to further implement the All-Wales Autism Strategic Action Plan strategy. Much criticism was leveled at current support mechanisms like the Community Care and Unified Assessments, as well as CAMHS, CMHT and social services who were felt to have not had either the investment nor the proper training (we know this is an issue across the wider UK too) to fully support all people on the spectrum appropriately.
There has been some success in Wales but it's time to listen to the concerns of those on the spectrum, individuals and families in Wales and to provide better basic support for life skills, employment/self-employment opportunities - the same can be said across the UK.
On December 3rd The Northern Ireland Government launched a document for public consultation aimed at achieving improved outcomes, services and support for people with autism, their families and carers. We hope to be involved along with members of our NI regional group. There are major gaps in provision in NI and we need to increase pressure on the Government here.
2013 is going to a BIG year for the Autism Community in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Act now For Autism is committed to campaigning for the Autism Strategies across the UK to be improved and above all, to be more inclusive of all people on the spectrum and to be the very best strategies in the world!
We are going to need YOU to help us march through this year and continue our campaign work and update our impact assessment. Now is the time to be proactive, people across the country will now start to feel the changes and fully realise what is going to happen.
We have to stick together, work together and shout together with one voice.
March with us!