The Government has today set out plans to improve the benefits system for disabled adults. They were responding to recommendations from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which is made up of MPs from across political parties.

We submitted evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, which looked at Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA). We highlighted the key issues that autistic people tell us matters most to them: 
- That people carrying out benefits assessments need a better understanding of autism
- That having to attend face-to-face assessments can cause autistic people stress and anxiety
- That too many people have to challenge decisions or appeal them.

We have long argued for improvements to both ESA and PIP and today’s changes will help some autistic people who are applying for these benefits. You can read the Government’s full response on the Parliament website. We’ve picked what we think are the four key issues for autistic people: 

  1. The Government says that it will work with the companies that carry out benefits assessments to make sure that they are offering home visits, when that is more appropriate.
    Many autistic people have told us that having to attend assessments in person can cause them very high levels of stress. Others said that they were refused a home visit when they asked for one, so this move is welcome.
  2. The Government says that it will look more closely at whether people can take someone with them to their assessment (a 'companion'). Autistic people and their family members often tell us that they want someone with them, to help them answer questions, but this was not possible. The Government currently carries out audits of the PIP process. They will now consider including in those audits whether or not people have a companion at their assessment. It is vital that autistic people get the support they need in an assessment, so we think this is a good first step. We will continue to highlight this point, to make sure that the findings of audits are acted on.
  3. The Government says that it is looking at ways to record everyone’s assessments.
    At the moment, if a claimant wants a recording of their assessment, they have to do this themselves and provide a copy to the assessment provider. Some people feel that having a recording could help make sure that the assessments are good quality. This is not a final announcement that assessments will be recorded. If the Government does find a way to do this, we will update the information on our website.
  4. The Government has set up regular feedback meetings with organisations who support claimants, to establish how things are going.
    We think that it is important that these meetings lead to action and will be following up to make sure they do. 

While these changes are welcome and should make a difference for some autistic people, we still have concerns that too many benefits assessors do not have the autism understanding they need. We will continue to work alongside our supporters and other charities to raise this issue, and to make sure that the actions announced by the Government are taken.

If you have questions about PIP or ESA, please visit our benefits advice pages. If you would like to speak to someone, you can contact our helpline.