As a regional charity, Autism Anglia has observed the difficulties individuals with autism face with homelessness and gaining appropriate and timely support around their housing needs. There is a definite lack of understanding towards autistic individuals and a superficial judgement is often made about their capabilities. This prevents them being prioritised appropriately and effectively. We have been happy to work with Dr Anna Kennedy OBE UK Autism Ambassador, Founder UK Autism Charity AnnaKennedyonline on a recent homelessness case. Anna has kindly agreed to give her support to Autism Anglia, to a future project analysing the number of homeless people who are autistic.
Anna Kennedy shares ‘ I am happy to support Autism Anglia with their project on Autism and Homelessness since working alongside Annie Sands on a recent case ,I was impressed with their knowledge , care and support for this vulnerable autistic adult. More work and awareness raising needs to undertaken in this area’
Someone can be vulnerable due to their physical or learning disability under the ‘Priority Need of the Homeless Code of Guidance for Local Authorities.’ However, this is down to individual statutory interpretation. For example in a recent case the Local authority commented on the individual’s ability to drive, making an assumption he was not vulnerable. Driving requires executive functioning whereas communication is multi-faceted. Being able to drive does not require emotional and social function, which autistic people can struggle with and therefore, both are not the same.
“The Prevalence of Autistic Traits in a Homeless Population-April 10th 2018.” States- “Anecdotal evidence suggests that autistic people experience an elevated risk of homelessness.” -Therefore local authorities should look at processes to enhance levels of understanding to prevent this group from further vulnerability and risk. More than ever, this will be paramount with the introduction of Universal credit and all the complexities that brings.
Local authorities should provide specific autism training to their staff and the necessary support that individual’s require when seeking housing advice in order to prevent homelessness. From our experience, we regularly observe little joined up working among statutory agencies and often, the autistic individual is the ‘ping pong ball’ between two bats.
CEO of Autism Anglia, Alan Bicknell, says: “housing is such a basic need for people that anything we can do to improve the situation must help in some way.” We are about to extend an invitation to local housing organisations and councils to progress this issue.
Anna Kennedy OBE