Aspergers man is hit with £1k support bill

editorial image

A Duns man feels that he is “being punished for being disabled” after receiving a £1,000 invoice for the support that allows him to work.

Steven Oliver, who has Aspergers’ Syndrome, had been receiving vital Self-Directed Support (SDS) through an outreach service provided by Autism Initiatives Scotland (AIS) for the last year.

This support had enabled him to work in a part-time job, for five hours a week.

But Steven was told in November last year that Scottish Borders Council was to introduce a contribution to the cost, and in May he received an invoice for £1,049.

Steven said: “When the financial assessment was carried outlast year, I, along with many other users of SDS, were led to believe the contribution would be a modest one.”

An appeal against the decision was not upheld, on the grounds that Steven could reduce his outgoings to meet the cost.

“That is ironic to say the least,” he added, “because I recently changed my place of work, which halved the distance I was driving.”

He went on: “While I understand that savings have to be made, the council’s attitude - which appears to be one of ‘not our problem’ - is disgraceful.

“Part of having Asperger’s, it’s like autism, is the intense anxiety of situations like this, so you can imagine how receiving such an invoice made me feel.

“The fortnightly meetings with my social worker are designed to combat that. She’s really helped me, with practical and emotional help, things I couldn’t do on my own.”

Richard Ibbotson, director for Scotland for Autism Initiatives, echoed this: “The implementation of Self Directed Support offers some real opportunities, as well as challenges, for people with autism and their families. We fully support the aim of SDS to enable better life outcomes for individuals with ASD and their families by giving control and choice over who, when and where a person gets the support they need. We recognise that by supporting the person with autism to receive a service that they chose, based on their unique skills and strengths, they can lead increasingly successful and independent lives.”

Steven went on: “I understand a lot of people using SDS have been hit with these bills, and at least one person has had to stop because of them.”

He added that there was a further irony: “AIS have been in touch with the council, to no avail. To add insult to injury, the council have just this week sent out a questionnaire to SDS users asking for views on the service!”

An SBC spokesperson said: “While SBC would not wish to discuss individual cases, we are working with all service users to ensure that no-one is deprived of essential services or faces financial hardship due to their contribution to the cost of these services.

“All charges are based upon an ability to pay and there are mechanisms in place to assess this for every individual.”