Guernsey Press

Parents of autistic children may be falling into poverty, support group warns

Parents of autistic children may be falling into poverty as they are unable to work due to caring for their child.

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The concerns have been raised on World Autism Awareness Day, which kicks off World Autism Acceptance Week.

The Guernsey Press will be running a series of articles throughout the week.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, and for parents of high support-needs children it can be difficult to hold down a job, juggling work and caring for their children while sometimes surviving on a single income or single part-time income.

‘Every parent with additional needs children of a certain level fundamentally has to work a term-time only job and gets trapped in poverty, and there is not one charity or government body who is working on that problem,’ said Marc Winn of the Autism and Me group.

‘Le Rondin is absolutely incredible, but that building closes during the holidays, education and HSC don’t work together or with Economic Development on childcare, so we have people thrown into a poverty train because there isn’t that equality.’

The difference in income is having huge implications for some parents, especially those with multiple children of differing needs and limited income to live.

The problem is only exacerbated by the lack of activities for neurodivergent children during the school holidays.

‘If you have a child with additional needs, there are no activities for them,’ said Mr Winn.

  • Read more about the online support group Autism and Me in Tuesday’s Press

‘If you have neurotypical kids, they go to school, during the holidays they can go to an activity club or sports club.

‘Le Rondin is amazing but that’s just school times.’

There are frequent anonymous posts on the Autism and Me Facebook group from struggling parents asking how they can apply for severe disability allowance or carers allowance.

Financial support is on a case-by-case basis, such as how ‘severe’ the disability of the child is or what school they go to.

Some parents have been successful, while others have reported GPs not signing application forms because the child attends a mainstream school, or waiting months for references from the schools.

The problem does not just affect parents with autistic children, but adults with autism who struggle to secure employment.

One 36-year-old man, who was diagnosed with autism aged 33, said that his employment troubles caused him to disengage from the sports and activities which he enjoyed throughout his life.

‘Unemployment is a huge issue in the autism community. I had huge problems with employment from leaving school in 2005, until I began working with the Guernsey Employment Trust in 2016,’ he said.

‘There needs to be a lot more public awareness around autism, and employers should undergo autism training, to be made aware of the strengths and abilities of autistic employees, and the reasonable adjustments that can be made for them.’

The man currently works at the Guernsey Recycling Group and said that the company was very accommodating of him.