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Julian Huppert MP

Don't write off people with autism - Howarth

November 2, 2009 11:20 AM

HowarthA national campaign to stop adults with autism being written-off by the employment and benefits system has been backed by Cambridge MP David Howarth.

Mr Howarth gave his support to the campaign launched by the National Autistic Society after it revealed that a third of people with autism currently live without a job or benefits, with many forced to rely on family and friends for help.

He said: "People with autism have a great deal to offer and we know that many want to work but are unable to get the help and support they need to fulfill their potential.

"It is crucial that people with serious, lifelong and disabling conditions such as autism get the help they need when seeking employment and are supported financially when they cannot work."

As well as backing the campaign, Mr Howarth has taken a lead role nationally in the fight to get a fairer deal for adults with autism.

He has pushed the government to introduce the first ever autism law which would place a duty on local authorities and the NHS to recognise and fulfill their responsibilities towards people with autism.

The Autism Bill, which is also backed by Cambridge-based Umbrella Autism, is in its final stages having had its third reading in the House of Commons on October 22.

The National Autistic Society claims that only 15 per cent of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time paid employment.

Its report Don't Write Me Off reveals that the majority of the over 300,000 working age adults with autism want to work but are being held back by a lack of understanding of autism amongst employment and benefits advisers at Jobcentre Plus and a dearth of specialist employment services. As a result they often experience inadequate job-seeking support, unnecessary and distressing delays in payment, or are being denied essential benefits altogether.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS said: "People with autism say their experiences of the employment and benefits system are marred by anxiety, confusion, delays and discrimination. It is scandalous that thousands of people with autism are being consigned to poverty by a complex and counter-productive benefits system."