Autism Together’s Step into Work Plus programme has been shortlisted for two categories in the National Autistic Society’s prestigious Autism Professional Awards.
The Wirral-based charity is up for the most supportive employer and outstanding adult services awards. They were shortlised by a panel of 10 autism experts who judged them on their innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.
Step into Work Plus received £265,000 of Big Lottery Funding in 2011. The 24-week programme has, to date, helped 126 people: 42 are now in paid employment, 19 are in voluntary roles and seven are in full-time education. Over 40 employers and work placement providers in greater Merseyside have worked with the scheme, including Pets at Home, Wirral Libraries, the Light cinema in New Brighton and Tranmere Rovers FC.
Programme Manager Beverley Breen said, “Our Big Lottery targets were a challenge but with the hard work of staff and students we have far exceeded these. Students, families, carers and employers all say our programme is life changing and we’ve had some fantastic outcomes. Across Merseyside and beyond we’ve increased awareness of autism with employers and have shown how valuable people with autism can be as employees.”
Step into Work Plus takes a holistic and tailored approach to each student and includes coaching in employment skills, such as understanding how to dress smartly and how shop, handle money, take part in social events and travel on public transport. Students even have the chance to create their own micro business.
Chief executive of Autism Together, Robin Bush, said, “Sadly, it’s often the case that people on the autism spectrum are overlooked when it comes to work. Over three quarters of those with autism who are unemployed actually want to work* and paid roles – or even voluntary ones – can do wonders for their self-esteem and enjoyment of life. I’m tremendously proud that our small Step into Work Plus team has been able to make such a dramatic difference in these students’ lives.”
The award winners will be announced at a special ceremony at the NAS’ Professional conference in Harrogate on 7 March 2017.