Joan Ruddock MP, Under- Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has personally responded to the UK Autism Foundation, after the charity campaigned hard on the issue of Autism and Fuel Poverty.
UKAF has called on HM Government to ease the burdens of families with autism who are below the poverty line by addressing the winter fuel poverty issue. UKAF has maintained that some families are in fuel poverty and had to choose between heating and eating. They needed urgent help.
Backing for the UK Autism Foundation's appeal came from parliamentarians of all parties who signed an early day motion in the House of Commons on Autism and Winter Fuel Poverty tabled by Rudi Vis MP. EDM 281 was signed by 58 MPs in the Palace of Westminster.
'Fuel Poverty is an issue which the Government takes very seriously. We also appreciate the finance is an issue of great importance to people with a disability, including families with autism. I note that you are urging energy companies to consider social tariffs for all families with disabilities, including families with autism.As the majority of fuel poverty households also have the lowest incomes, the Government has taken the approach that the most fair and efficient method of identifying vulnerable householders who need help is through the receipt of benefits (primarily means tested),' said Minister Joan Ruddock in a letter to Ivan Corea of the UK Autism Foundation.
The Minister covered areas of concern highlighted by the UK Autism Foundation - including pre-payment meters and the controversy over higher direct debit payments taken by energy suppliers.
Joan Ruddock, writing to the UK Autism Foundation added: ' The Government acknowledges that disabled people can face extra costs, particularly with reference to food, transport and extra heating. That is why help is already available through disability benefits and the disability premium in income-related benefits in recognition of the extra costs, which can include heating.'
Ivan Corea said: 'The deepening recession is hitting families with autism who are below the poverty line very hard - many are in financial pain. If the recession worsens in 2009-2010 many families with disabilities will need extra help. The Government must ensure that families with autism will receive support with regards to their heating bills. Profits have been made at the expense of the vulnerable. Energy Companies must ensure that they reach out to families with disabilities - by introducing special social tariffs and support them during the economic downturn.'
The autism campaigner in the House of Commons, Lee Scott MP has also written to energy companies urging them to help families with autism who are below the poverty line.
UKAF has also appealed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling to increase the tax credits, the disability living allowance and the carer's allowance in the 2009 Budget scheduled to be delivered by the Chancellor on Wednesday 22nd April in Parliament. The UKAF appeal enjoys the support of parliamentarians of all parties in the House of Commons.
UK Autism Foundation, 22nd April 2009