Step into Work Plus, based in Birkenhead, is a programme from charity Autism Together designed to prepare younger adults with Asperger’s syndrome for the workplace.  It is run by a team of two Autism Together staff.

Charity Autism Together, established nearly 50 years ago, has become one of the country’s leading providers of services and support to people and families affected by autism. It now employs a thousand people across the region.

Since 2011, when Step into Work Plus received its Big Lottery funding, 126 young adults with Asperger’s syndrome have completed the Step into Work Plus programme and for many the experience has been life changing. Forty two of those young people are now in paid employment, 19 are in voluntary roles and seven are in full-time education.  This has far exceeded the original Big Lottery objectives for the project.

In 2016, when the Big Lottery funding ran out, the scheme received additional funding of £120,000 from the European Social Fund and Department of Work and Pensions in order to keep going. However, this funding only covered 67% of our costs and we have not been able to find additional funding.  So far we have invested £15,000 of our charity’s funds to cover costs. To continue would cost us a further £23,000.

It is with great regret that we have made the decision that the Step into Work Plus scheme must close in December. Seven students who have just started the course will be able to complete it. A further 14 prospective students have been in contact to express an interest. If any of them wish to access the programme, we will honour this.

The same Step into Work Plus personnel have been with the project from the very start and have been inspirational.  Earlier this year the team won two national awards for their achievements. One of these team members will be working on another Autism Together project. We are in discussions with the second team member.

In 2008 the National Autistic Society reported that only 15% of all people with autism were in full time paid employment, compared with the overall employment rate for disabled people of 48%. Step into Work Plus has proved that, with the correct support, people with Asperger’s syndrome can excel in the workplace, proving to employers and to themselves that they have a valuable role in society.

We would like to extend our thanks and best wishes to all the Merseyside employers who have supported our scheme and who have helped these young people on their way.  We’re incredibly proud to have worked with so many fantastic young people and wish them the very best of luck in their future lives.