Read our latest Press Release:
Working in conjunction with the NHS in Calderdale and the Sheffield Autism and Neurodevelopment Service, the Society for Neurodiversity (S4Nd), has produced a template letter that is set to help hundreds of Autistic people make claims for benefits. The letter is now available to all GPs, which in turn will make it simpler and easier for Autistic people to obtain the proof of diagnosis they need to access a range of benefits.
Sharing the letter template was the idea of S4Nd’s founder and CEO, Angie Balmer. Angie had recently contacted the Sheffield Adult Autism and Neurodevelopmental Service, where she herself had been diagnosed 5 years ago, to request a supporting statement about her autism diagnosis to support her application for a Blue Badge.
Recognising that getting up to date information for an autism diagnosis was currently an issue for many autistic people, Angie was convinced others would also benefit from this letter and the supporting statement it contained. She realised that, if the letter was used as a template and made available through GPs, it had the potential to simplify benefits applications for hundreds of people.
Angie worked with Dr Richard Smith, a Clinical Psychologist at the Sheffield Autism and Neurodevelopment Service, who wrote the original letter and Joanne Grantham, a Lead Social Prescriber in Calderdale, who organised for the letter be available on NHS’s national resource database.
The standard letter template can now be used to support autistic individuals in their applications for benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Capability for Work assessments for UC and ESA, Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) and the Blue Badge Scheme.
Speaking about the letter, Angie Balmer said:
“My experience of applying for a Blue Badge and PIP and the requirement for up-to-date evidence that I am Autistic, that I haven’t been cured, recovered or outgrown my diagnoses showed a need for a standard template that other people could easily be access to support their application”
Dr Richard Smith:
“It has often been very difficult for autistic people without a Learning Disability to have their needs understood by others as their difficulties are often hidden or not immediately clear. We feel it is important that autistic people can have access to the right support so they can enjoy being part of society and demonstrate their individual strengths. Collaborative working between autistic people and clinicians can lead to good person-centred care and a greater understanding of Autism.”
Joanne Grantham, a Lead Social Prescriber in Calderdale, who has been instrumental in making the letter available within the NHS, said:
“I recognise that everyone has individual support needs which are often hard to see on the surface. I was very happy to see the solution Angie devised for a widespread problem, the Society for Neurodiversity are excellent partners to work with. I am very pleased to have helped share this letter template which was approved for use and is now available on the NHS primary care clinical systems in the Autistic Spectrum Disorder reporting template.”
The template has now been uploaded to national resource database SystmOne, Ardens and EMIS,
which means it is available nationally for GPs to access and use.
The letter explains that autism is a lifelong condition and that Autism is a ‘hidden impairment’ and severity may vary by context and fluctuate over time. It outlines how autistic people can present with significantly impaired abilities with social interaction, social communication, and flexibility of thought.
They have sensory processing difficulties meaning many environments are extremely stressful or very hard to function in (e.g., crowded places, places with background noise or people close to them).
They have significant impairments of the ‘executive functioning’, a very important role for the brain for managing and coordinating skills and abilities demonstrating that autistic people are disabled by society in its environments and attitudes.
Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder, remaining valid for the person’s lifespan and does not need to be reassessed after any interval of time, which may be the case with some mental or physical health diagnoses.
The Society For Neurodiversity or S4Nd is a neurodivergent member-led organisation that was set up to help the neurodiverse community, their families and allies to overcome the barriers they face every day. Visit their website – www.s4nd.org – for more information.