Written By: Thomas Kingston 18/8/15
Young people with autism are being encouraged to gain a foothold in the world of work, with support from a major charity.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have offered young people with autism work experience as part of an ‘Insight Programme’ developed in partnership with Ambitious about Autism.
The participants in the pilot scheme included Thomas Kingston, from Loftus, near Whitby, who is in the third year of a business law degree at the BPP University.
He said: “I didn’t know much about a career in the civil service but always had an interest in the running of the country, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to find out more…This was an exceptional opportunity to gain experience at the heart of the UK’s decision-making body.”
The scheme looked at addressing the fact that 85 per cent of adults with autism are not in full-time paid employment. The two-week programme enabled participants to develop skills and familiarity with an office based workplace, gain support and coaching from managers, and obtain information about Civil Service employment programmes, including Fast Track Apprenticeships and the Summer Diversity Internship Programme.
The scheme had three core elements – work experience, coaching and awareness sessions. Coaching was provided for the young people participating in the scheme, who all received a development plan. Along with broader confidence building and career planning guidance, sessions also focused on strategies for completing online tests, application forms, and attending job assessment centres.
Employees at DWP and HMRC were offered workshop-based sessions, providing an overview of autism and how those on the autism spectrum can be supported in the workplace. These sessions, co-delivered by a young person with autism, provided basic autism awareness training to managers.
Jolanta Lasota, the chief executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: “With the right support, planning and opportunities from employers, many young people with autism have the ability and desire to work. However, recent figures show that only 15 per cent of people with autism are in full-time, paid employment. Schemes like this are vital in getting young people with autism into the workplace and we are delighted that HMRC and DWP are ready and willing to take part.”
Janet Hill, civil service diversity and inclusion team programme director, added: “Small changes to the working environment are often all that is needed to support young people with autism and we are keen to make this happen.
“Ambitious about Autism has been helpful in putting this programme together and I look forward to putting all our learnings into practice. We look forward to the benefit this training has provided our staff and to hosting more schemes like this.”
David Nicholson, a youth ambassador at Ambitious about Autism, and one of the young people taking part in the scheme, added: “Having us involved in this training is great because we can give an insight that no one else can.”
Kayleigh Wainwright, the project lead for the partnership, said: “We are evaluating the scheme to see what worked well, what are the benefits and how much it would cost to resource something like this and then we will identify where to go next. We have existing links with some private sector organisations, where we could develop this further.”
Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism.
The charity provides services, raises awareness and understanding, and campaigns to improve the quality of life for children and young people with autism.
Through the TreeHouse School, The Rise School and Ambitious College it also provides specialist education and support.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects one in 100 people in the UK.
It affects the way a person communicates and how they experience the world.