Friday, 9 March 2012

Campaigning on the PIP in Dundee

When my son, Andrew and I heard about the Autism Action Network, we immediately wanted to be part of it and get stuck in!  Crucially, we want to raise awareness of the coalition government’s plans to replace Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment or PIP in April 2013, and the serious, negative impact this could have on the estimated 34,000 Scots aged between 16 and 64 who have some form of autism.
Working with NAS, we arranged a meeting with our local Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Joe Fitzpatrick. We were joined by a journalist and a photographer from our local paper. We’ve always been very active in our local community in Dundee, but approaching our MSP in our new roles as NAS Ambassadors helped give us that bit of extra clout.

We explained that Andrew has Asperger syndrome, and if he does not qualify for PIP he will be unable to continue the part-time work he loves at our local Hotel. Many people with autism are facing a similar situation to Andrew’s: compelled to seek full time employment to continue living independently, even though the nature of their condition means that working full time will have an adverse effect on their wellbeing.

Between the ages of 4 and 19, it was mistakenly thought that Andrew had mental health issues. At 19 he was finally diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a developmental disability.  With the support of his family and the NAS Scotland, Andrew has met and overcome many of the challenges of his condition and gone on to remarkable achievements. A keen swimmer, Andrew won Gold at the 2007 Shanghai Special Olympics for the 25m butterfly event and now coaches Dundee Discovery swimming club, a local club for the disabled. He volunteers for a local hospice and is Assistant Cub Leader with the local pack. Andrew works in the hospitality industry and recently became engaged to his girlfriend of 6 years.  Like many people with autism like him, Andrew is worried that the new PIP system may prevent them from continuing their valuable contributions to their local community and living a happy, fulfilled life.

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP was open, positive and  sympathetic. He told us that his door is always open when we want to discuss our concerns on welfare reform. He is now supporting NAS in becoming part of the Scottish government’s Welfare Reform Committee. This is just Andrew’s and my first week as NAS Scotland Ambassadors. It looks like we’re off to a good start.


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