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Letters: I'm autistic and the DWP's benefit reforms make me very scared for the future

An autistic reader is fearful of benefit reforms, and another has some observations on the prime minister's choice of footwear

Image: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Big Issue readers react to articles on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s universal credit reforms, the myth of hard work, the war in Gaza and Rishi Sunak’s footwear.

As an autistic person, the DWP makes me scared for the future 

LCWRA (lmited capability for work-related activity) in universal credit is set to be reformed. Instead of financial support, hundreds of thousands of people currently considered too ill to work will be offered “personalised support to help them move closer towards work”. And if those people continue to be too ill /as far away from work as they currently are, what then? Then society further crumbles. I wonder which services will then be expected to shovel up the rubble. Or maybe there’ll just be unshovelled rubble. 

The government simultaneously has targets to remove limited capability for work benefits from 100,000s (including many autistic people) and to reduce autistic mental health inpatients. Where does it suppose that autistic people who find themselves without the means to pay for housing and with no place to hide their distress are likely to end up? Having meltdowns in public because they have nowhere to hide them, and sectioned. 

Unless they’re “lucky” enough to be taken in by someone, which may or may not be lucky – because being an adult taken in by someone with more resources is a power imbalance that can leave already vulnerable people more vulnerable to domestic violence, because someone previously able to live independently now can’t. 

I have been worrying about this for months. And probably will for months more, until it either does or doesn’t happen. “But if you truly were too autistic/anxious/whatever to work, you’d be on a higher tier of disability benefits and this wouldn’t apply to you!,” I imagine readers thinking. Unfortunately, no. Autism is notoriously underestimated in assessments, and many autistic people (myself included) are either not able to fully communicate their needs, or considered to be too high-functioning for being able to communicate their needs (or, frustratingly, some mixture of the two). Assessments are very blunt instruments and often don’t reflect someone’s day-to-day realities nearly accurately enough to lead to an appropriate level of support. And when support is offered it is often inappropriate. 

Some autistic people can work. These people are held up as success stories to the majority of us who are unwaged. “Just try harder,” people seem to say. It’s deeply patronising and implies we don’t know our own capabilities and what is best for us and how that all too evidently mismatches with society’s demands. 

I can imagine the sort of life that would be best for me. This would be being able to live with my brilliantly supportive boyfriend, who I currently can’t afford to live with because I’d lose my benefits and be put in a situation of financial dependency. It can be hard enough for autistic people to form good relationships and when we do, too many of us find ourselves in this position. Wouldn’t the taxpayer like to save my rent and let me live more happily with better support for less money, rather than being so all-or-nothing about it? And I’m the one who’s supposed to have black-and-white thinking! 

So, no, my current position isn’t ideal either. But neither is having no money of my own at all. I am genuinely scared, both for myself and for other people. 

An anonymous autistic person 

Stop the war 

The evocative photograph of an airdrop of aid into Gaza in a recent issue is a striking reminder of the urgency that this war must cease. While it is right that Israel should be held to account for their actions, the same must be required of Hamas.

First of all, to release all the hostages, those living and those who have died. Second, to either unconditionally surrender or leave Gaza. Unless these two conditions are met it’s impossible to imagine when the war will end. 

Jeremy Thompson, Suffolk 

Serfs up

I read with interest Sam Delaney’s piece regarding work ethic as “a ruse designed by the crafty bosses of yesteryear who gaslit peasants into helping them get rich”.   

It is still very much the case, especially with the flurry of takeovers by private equity companies strangling otherwise worthwhile brands. There is an alternative: employee ownership of companies, which avoids the conventional shelling out of profits to external shareholders – so-called ‘shareholder value’ – and delivers those profits to the people that generated them in the first place; the workforce. 

David Sproxton, Bristol 

Super Simon

I am a regular subscriber to the Big Issue and buy the magazine from Simon who sells on Gentleman’s Walk in Norwich. I read in the letters page of your recent magazine about Simon from one of your readers and his kindness. 

I entirely agree because he always makes time to discuss with people their own lives. I wish him and his family all the best for the future and all Big Issue vendors. 

Keith Patey, Norwich

They’ve made our beds 

I’ve just come out of a hospital (NHS) ward with 10 beds, only three of us patients in. Excellent staff and treatment. I asked why only three beds were occupied when I’d waited a year for the operation and there are record numbers waiting. I was informed, by a senior member of the ward staff that they had to accommodate NHS work around the consultant surgeon’s private work. Private health is not reducing waiting times, in fact, it’s the opposite. 

@vanmorisman, Instagram 

Samba, hey 

Hello Paul, I’m always happy to read the Big Issue – but Samba trainers? They sound grotty, much like Sunak’s policies. As well as The Big Issue I subscribe to Ethical Consumer. Why not treat your feet to a pair of Ethletics, say?  Mods and everyone else should be envious, and not just because you’ve avoided Sunak’s sartorial bad. (Interesting aside about your Irish farmer heritage: my background is the same and flat feet are a feature in my family too.) 

The Big Issue challenges and cheers me. Thanks! 

Mary Robertson 

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about any of these topics? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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