Labour Party Autism / Neurodiversity Manifesto: Final Draft (2018)

Please find the final version below, as sent to John McDonnell, 2018:

The Labour Party Autism / Neurodiversity Manifesto is structured as follows:

1. Our key principles
2. The realities of our current situation
3. Policies to challenge discrimination and inequality

1. Key principles

Our key principles are:

• 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. ADHD, dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and other conditions are neurological differences. We want human neurodiversity to be accepted not suppressed or cured. (See our website for neurodiverse profile prevalence figures.)

• Opposition to austerity: We need adequate public services, benefits and wages. We oppose government and local authority cuts to these – they 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 neurodivergent people themselves.
2. The reality of our current situation

We have the right to live independently, with a lifestyle of our choice. But many environments and essential spheres of life are hostile to dyspraxic, dyslexic, autistic and other neurodivergent people:

Diagnosis/identification and support

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; there is a widespread lack of public health support for ADHD, particularly diagnostic services for adults, most of whom would not have been identified as children. Girls are more likely to be misdiagnosed than boys and are often not recognised as neurodivergent until later in life.
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. There is a higher prevalence of mental health issues among neurodivergent people. For example, around a quarter of those with ADHD experience depression or anxiety; 40%-60% of dyslexic children also present with anxiety, depression or attentional issues.
Often, we only receive support once we develop mental health problems. If we receive adequate support, this may prevent or reduce mental health problems.

Independent living, services and welfare

The Tory government 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 reported by the Westminster Commission. Studies have shown that autistic people have a significantly lower life expectancy than non-autistic people.
There is a shortage of appropriate social care for neurodivergent people. For example, 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.
Dyslexic, 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’.
Schools and society more widely put enormous pressures on children and young people (including neurodivergent youngsters), leading to more and more widespread mental health difficulties, without adequate resources to help and support young people through difficult times.
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 children 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.
At 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.
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 neurodivergent 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 crime against people with ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions 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.
Dyslexic and other 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 ADHD.
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 and gain support eg. at work.

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.

3. Policies to challenge discrimination and inequality

• Diagnosis/identification and support

Diagnostic/identification service available to all, without delays, which recognises neurodivergent conditions in girls and women as well as in boys and men. Assessment as to whether the individual has other, related conditions.
Adequate support following diagnosis, for example coaching from other neurodivergent people.

Independent living, services and welfare

Stop and reverse cuts; expand services.
Resource local government to provide services.
Use statutory guidance to ensure that local authorities carry out the requirements of the Autism Act through decision-making forums 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.
Provide necessary social housing and support to enable independent living. Secure tenancies and protection for private renters.
Consideration of neurodiversity in domestic violence services.
Neurodiversity training for all public service staff.
Provision for autism service dogs with the same status and rights as other assistance dogs.
• Education

Well-funded, publicly-run and accountable schools.
Smaller class sizes.
Varied teaching and assessment methods, recognising diversity in people’s learning style and pace.
Neurodiversity training for all teachers and teaching assistants as part of core training.
Provision for neurodivergent students and all schools, colleges and universities.
No cuts in support through Education and Health Care Plans.
Consideration of neurodiversity in early years and SureStart.
Education about neurodiversity in the curriculum, including support with social interaction.
Take the stress out of studying. Take measures to support the mental health of teenagers (including neurodivergent teenagers).


Place a legal requirement on employers to make workplaces and working conditions more equal and accessible and less hostile, including through adopting a neurodiversity policy and training for all staff.
Job applications and interviews to be accessible, non-discriminatory, and include support – for example, alternatives to written applications for dyslexic applicants.
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.
Remove the cap on Access to Work.
Restore Remploy as an employer of disabled people.
Ensure that anti-discrimination law covers volunteers as well as employees.
Support for self-employed neurodivergent people, recognising that commercial and reporting requirements may be difficult to meet.

• 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, including compiling accurate statistics, and recognising in law that that ‘hate crime’ can be aimed at neurodivergent people.
Ensure that all treatments and therapies aimed at autistic and other neurodivergent people are properly regulated. Legislate against quack ‘cures’ such as MMS (bleach) which harm autistic and other neurodivergent people.
Investigate the concerns of autistic people about interventionists such as Applied Behaviour Analysis and similar ‘treatments’ that aim to ‘make autistic people indistinguishable from their peers’ and which many consider to be abusive.
The justice system

A review of the workings of the justice system to ensure that it is accessible to people of all neurologies.
Neurodiversity training for all justice staff.
Ensuring that non-harmful unusual behaviours are not criminalised, and that people receive support rather than punishment if an intolerable environment causes disruptive behaviour.
Support and rehabilitation for offenders with ADHD and/or other neurodivergent conditions.
Restore Legal Aid and scrap Employment Tribunal charges.
Strengthen the law:
o ‘Neurological status/condition/divergence’ to be an additional protected characteristic under the Equality Act, with the same legal protections as disability.
o Strengthen the Public Sector Equality Duty and extend it to the private sector.
o Develop the Autism Act to include eg. obligations on employers.

Lack of understanding

Education and training about neurodiversity at all levels: for political decision-makers; employers; administrators of justice; education staff; public service providers; (prospective) parents; etc.
A campaign to raise public awareness of neurodiversity and neurodivergent conditions, including through GPs’ surgeries and promotional materials.
More resources for research, in areas guided by the needs and concerns of neurodivergent people, including research into historical mistreatment of neurodivergent people.
Ensure that when the government is considering new policies (eg. citizens’ income), it considers the impact on all of our neurodiverse population.


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