Autism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:32 pm on 29th March 2018.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade Unions and Workers' Rights) 2:32 pm, 29th March 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Kevin Brennan. I want first to place on record the fact that many of my constituents have contacted my office and urged me to attend this debate. Many of them have sent emails expressing how much it would mean to them if their Member of Parliament were to attend the debate. I am glad to see so many other hon. Members here as well.

When I was first elected, one of the first things I introduced in my constituency was a surgery specifically for carers. That is important for carers of people with autism, because they often face issues in isolation, including education, social and social security issues. Sometimes, those issues are not faced in isolation; they can become combined. That is why I introduced a specific surgery for carers, so that we could look at all those issues in combination, rather than dealing with them separately.

I want to raise a matter that has not yet been mentioned—namely, the difficulties that those with autism and their carers have when navigating their way through the social security system, particularly the personal independence payment application process. I have a constituent, Mrs Geraldine Lynch, who attended a PIP assessment with her son Jordan, who has autism. Mrs Lynch has said that the descriptions of her son in the reports that came back from the assessment process and the mandatory reconsideration process were unrecognisable. Perhaps they were the wrong files, describing the wrong individual, or perhaps my constituent was misdiagnosed and not given a proper PIP assessment.

My real fear about the PIP process is that far too often there is a lack of specialism among the assessors and a lack of understanding of specific conditions. My experience of my constituency workload tells me that that also affects those who suffer from autism. I encourage the Government to look specifically at ensuring that assessors of PIP, employment and support allowance and other benefits include a specialist on autism and related conditions. That is very important if we are to help those people.

There have been some positive developments in my constituency. One of them relates to my constituents Debbie Elliott and Claire Ellis, who have launched a support group called the Triple A Parents and Carers Support Group in Govan, and I would like to thank the Govan Housing Association for providing free space in its hub to allow the group to organise. It runs a drop-in every Friday. The purpose of the group is to allow parents and carers facing the same issues to share their experiences and to give each other advice, information and support. It is important that carers of those with autism and other related conditions have that kind of support, and the number of support groups is growing in my constituency and elsewhere. They allow support and the sharing of information and experiences, which helps other individuals. Added to that, on the Pollok side of my constituency, Differabled Scotland is organising a parent-to-parent peer support group for parents and carers of children, young people and adults.