The constituency office of Marion Fellows MP has become the first in the UK to be certified as autism-friendly after achieving the National Autistic Society Scotland’s Autism Friendly Award.
To achieve the award, office staff learned about autism and made adjustments to the way they work to ensure autistic people and their families, in Marion’s Motherwell and Wishaw constituency, can access the services it offers.
This included identifying a designated quiet room where autistic people and their families can go if they are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or sensory overload, and offering a friendly and welcoming environment that targets the accessibility needs of autistic constituents and their families.
The Autism Friendly Award, administered by the National Autistic Society Scotland, recognises organisations that ensure autistic visitors and their families can access and enjoy their venues.
Marion Fellows, MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, said:
“It is important that my office meets the needs of my constituents and is accessible to everyone. Autistic adults are not on a level playing field with neurotypicals when trying to access employment, therefore, more autistic people are forced into applying for social security benefits. This increase in applications has resulted in more autistic people requiring assistance from their MP, due to the detrimental impact of the application process. The UK Government needs to revisit this process and take into consideration the distress and anxiety it causes.
“It has been highlighted that many autistic adults will abandon the application before submission. Those that manage to complete an application for benefits are all too often invited to assessments that are far too intimidating and impact negatively on their wellbeing. Assessors are not trained to assess autistic claimants and this leads to benefits being denied.
“It was vitally important that my office make small changes to be more autism-friendly. I would encourage all MPs to do the same. The changes do not need to be extravagant, just subtle changes can make all the difference.”
Nick Ward, director at the National Autistic Society Scotland said: “We are delighted to see the adjustments that Marion’s office has made to improve accessibility for its autistic constituents. Around 58,000 people are autistic in Scotland. This means they see, hear and feel the world differently to other people, often in a more intense way, which can make visiting a busy office a great anxiety.
“By creating a designated quiet space where autistic people and their families can go if they are feeling overwhelmed and providing autism awareness training to staff, Marion’s office has shown a real commitment to making a big difference to the lives of its autistic constituents in Motherwell and Wishaw”.
“As elected representatives, MPs are our community leaders and so need to be a leader in autism awareness and understanding. We hope that many more MPs and MSPs will follow Marion’s excellent example and make their constituency offices autism-friendly. We will then be a little bit closer to creating a world that supports and works for autistic people, their families and carers.”
The National Autistic Society Scotland wants to support more organisations in Scotland to become autism-friendly. To find out more about the award, please visit www.autism.org.uk/autismfriendlyaward.