Here is the original *draft* Autism / Neurodiversity Manifesto, as launched by the Steering Group – with John McDonnell – at the Labour Party Conference in September 2016.
We are seeking to develop this draft with wide involvement, so please make your views / ideas known on the open fb discussion page:
The Manifesto Draft
Our draft is structured as follows:
1. Key principles
2. The realities of our current situation
3. Policies to challenge discrimination and inequality
- The social model of disability: Disability is caused by society creating barriers to the equal participation of impaired (or neurologically different) people.
- The neurodiversity approach: Humanity is neurologically diverse; people have different brain wiring. Autism, dyslexia, ADHD and others are neurological differences. We want human neurodiversity to be accepted not suppressed or cured.
(Our website www.neurodiversitymanifesto.com will ultimately set out Neurodiverse profile prevalence figures).
Opposition to austerity
We need adequate public services, benefits and wages. Government and local authority cuts to these are a political choice, not an economic necessity.
- Socialism, democracy and solidarity: As a prospective Labour Party manifesto, this document bases itself on labour movement principles.
- We want to challenge the deep social roots of discrimination against neurodivergent people.
- Nothing about us without us: Policies and services, and the Manifesto itself, must be shaped by autistic and other neurodivergent people.
The reality of our current situation
We have the right to live independently, with a lifestyle of our choice. However, many environments and essential spheres of life are hostile to autistic and other neurodivergent people:
Independent living, services and welfare
There is a desperate lack of diagnostic / identification services: in some areas, there is no diagnostic service for eg. dyspraxia in adults; waiting lists for autism assessments can be up to three years. While waiting for diagnosis/identification, many people are misdiagnosed or are medicated for conditions such as depression or anxiety which may arise from the discrimination and lack of support they experience arising from their neurological status.
Often, we only receive support once we develop mental health problems. If we receive adequate support, this may prevent or reduce mental health problems.
The Tory Govt has cut welfare benefits and subjected claimants to punitive ‘work capability tests’. Neurodivergent people are among those who have been driven to suicide by benefit sanctions.
Our National Health Service is under attack from Tory cuts and privatisation.
There are barriers to our access to healthcare, some of which have been recently reported by the Westminster Commission on Autism. A recent study showed that autistic people have a significantly lower life expectancy than non-autistic people.
There is a shortage of appropriate social care for autistic and other neurodivergent people. Some autistic people are placed in institutions far from their families and support networks.
The housing crisis makes it difficult for us to find secure housing with access to the services we need. Working-class people rely on these services much more than people who can afford to buy them.
Our schools are under-funded and over-stretched. Few have specialist provision for neurodivergent students.
Autistic and other neurodivergent children who are academically capable are often overlooked and their needs not met.
School students do not want to be forcibly ‘normalised’ but neither do they want to be singled out as ‘different’.
Teachers and teaching assistants do not get enough training about neurodiversity. So support can be arbitrary rather than appropriate.
Parents also receive no training in neurodiversity.
Parents and kids are too often blamed for challenging behaviour, rather than the root causes being addressed.
Teaching and assessment methods are geared towards neurotypical learning styles. Recent government policies eg. more assessment by exams, has made this situation even worse.
As the end of compulsory education, neurodivergent young people do not get enough support with transition to adulthood – they talk of falling off a ‘cliff’ as support services come to an end.
Autistic and other neurodivergent teachers and other education staff experience discrimination and distress in hostile workplaces.
Disadvantage continues beyond compulsory education into further and higher education.
Only 15% of autistic working-age adults are in full-time employment; a further 9% are in part-time employment. ADHD adults frequently have poor occupational outcomes, such as frequently changing jobs or long-term unemployment. This is not because only a fraction of neurodivergernt people can work: it is because workplaces are hostile environments for us.
Even if a mere 10% more autistic people were allowed access to the workforce, then the economy could be boosted by £593.25 million per year.
Barriers and discrimination in employment include: recruitment, interviews and assessments; the sensory environment at work; social pressures; lack of control over working conditions; and insecure employment.
The law, and the Tory Government’s Autism Strategy, place no obligation on employers to make workplaces and working practices equal and accessible to neurodiverse workforces.
Prejudice and discrimination
There is a level of bullying and hate crimes against autistic and other neurodivergent people that should shame our society.
This has increased with the demonisation of people who are disabled and/or different in pursuit of the Tories’ austerity agenda.
Profiteers and ‘quacks’ exploit the fears of neurodivergent people and our families by marketing false and dangerous ‘treatments’ and ‘cures’.
The built environment is often distressing and inaccessible, with an intense and increasing assault on our senses.
The justice system
While some neurodivergent people and their families have received useful support from the police, there have been several reported cases of police brutality against autistic people.
Neurodivergent people can find the justice system very difficult to navigate, and are often wrongly, harshly or unfairly judged.
Too many people are in custody who would be better off receiving support. Reports suggest that an exceptionally large number of prisoners meet the diagnostic criteria for AD(H)D
Equality law requires us to prove that we are disabled – in terms of things that we cannot do – in order to claim legal protection against discrimination.
Lack of understanding
There is too little research into neurodiversity and neurodivergent people’s needs; and what research there is can focus too heavily on the search for cures rather than on developing understanding and support.
When others (eg. professional bodies, charities, clinicians) speak for and/or make decisions for us, however well-meaning, then our views and needs can be misrepresented.
Policies to challenge discrimination and inequality
- Independent living, services and welfare Diagnostic/identification service available to all. Stop and reverse cuts; expand services. Resource local government to provide services. Ensure that local authorities carry out the requirements of the Autism Act through decision-making forms that include representatives of autistic people. Scrap Work Capability Assessments; adequate benefits for all who need them. Equal and adequate health and social care: restore the NHS; reverse privatisation. Provide appropriate, publicly-controlled and accountable care close to home, family and/or other support networks.
- Education Well-funded, publicly-run and accountable schools. Smaller class sizes. Varied teaching and assessment methods. Neurodiversity training for all teachers and teaching assistants as part of core training. Provision for neurodivergent students and all schools and colleges.
- Work Place a legal requirement on employers to make workplaces and working conditions more equal and accessible and less hostile. Replace Work Capability Assessments with Workplace Accessibility Assessments. Pursue a full employment policy, with the right to an appropriate, secure job for all who can work.
- Prejudice and discrimination Apply the principle of Universal Design to make the built environment less distressing and more accessible. Apply a strategy to tackle bullying and hate crime.
- The justice system A review of the workings of the justice system to ensure that it is accessible to people of all neurologies.