Thursday, 1 November 2012

Our Survey Says...Autism

Back in August the DWP released a small but significant piece of internal research. It can be read here but it includes a graphic that astounded me. This is it. 

There will be some first impressions when you look at itI didn't actually read the paper properly before I spotted this, so my first impression was "Is this something about the government's invented 120,000 troubled families?". That was mainly because I was looking at the larger words first.

The study was a survey of Jobcentre staff and they were asked about clients with complex needsNamely, they were asked to list what they consider to be complex needs that they've encountered. With that information I looked at the word-wall again and reinterpreted it, but it confounded my expectations. The major words there are ones which politicians and media outlets paint as simplistic, often proscribing very simple and direct solutions. They do this with the benefit of no-experience.

Jobcentre staffburdened by actual experience and having direct contact with such people disagree. They say these are people with complex needs.

What is most personally important to me, is one of the medium-sized responses. Only about 1 in 100 people are estimated to be Autistic and still there are many adults who are not recognised. But 'autism spectrum' is there. Notice that mental health and learning difficulties are generalised- no specific diagnoses under those umbrellas is mentioned. But Autism is. There are lots of reasons why it shouldn't be, but it is. The research says it's not only punching above its weight as a sign of complex needs- it's growing.

There remains no statutory Autism-specific service provision in the United Kingdom. The discrepancy between need and support can not remain if policy-makers finally start realising vast potential is being poured away.

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