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Government urged to remove barriers to employment for autistic people

Campaigners have called for a strategy to tackle the 'woeful' number of people with autism in unemployment, claiming the Government and Jobcentre Plus have 'condemned' people with the condition to a life of financial hardship.

In the UK 300,000 people have autism but, according to the National Autistic Society (NAS), 100,000 currently live without a job and without benefits. But of those currently on incapacity benefit, 80% want to work and more than a third think their disability employment adviser's knowledge of autism was ‘bad' or ‘very bad'.

Half of people with autism have spent time without a job or benefits, with over three-quarters of those forced to rely on family and friends as a result. And although 82% needed some kind of help to apply for benefits, few were made aware of their right to an advocate. In the worst cases parents were actively blocked from helping.

The findings come as, last week, the Autism Bill passed its final stage in the House of Lords to become England's first ever disability-specific law, meaning health and social care services could face legal action if they fail to provide support for people with the condition.

But the NAS is calling for a national strategy from Government to transform access to employment for people with autism across the UK. The charity is also campaigning for a number of measures to make the employment and benefits system fair for people with autism, including scrapping the need for a sick note and a better understanding of autism across all Jobcentre Plus staff, who determine eligibility for benefits or provide employment support.

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 absolutely vital they are able to access the right help and services if seeking employment and are supported financially when they cannot work.

"It is scandalous, therefore, that thousands of people with this serious, lifelong and disabling condition are being consigned to poverty by a complex and counter-productive benefits system. We will keep campaigning until the Government's ‘no one written off' pledge is a reality for people with autism."