New Government support to help autistic people into work
Thousands more autistic people are set to benefit from a new package of support designed to help them into the work they want.
Minister for Disabled People, Chloe Smith, has announced that 15 Jobcentre Plus sites will be testing an autism framework, designed with the National Autistic Society (NAS), to transform the service available to jobseekers on the autism spectrum. The framework pilot will aim to help people with autism find, retain and progress in fulfilling jobs.
This comes as 26,000 work coaches in job centres across the country are undergoing specialist accessibility training, delivered in partnership with Microsoft, in a further effort to help more disabled job-seekers secure employment.
The work coaches will look at how they can support disabled job-seekers with tools including immersive readers, magnifiers and automated captions, which will not only improve their daily work but will also help with the completion of job applications and interviews.
A person has a disability as defined under the Equality Act if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, such as going for a walk, making lunch, or reading a book
One in 100 people are autistic and there are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, according to the National Autistic Society. Not all autistic people will be able to work, but the charity’s research found that the vast majority want to.
Working age autistic people are often locked out of employment due to a lack of understanding and knowledge from employers and colleagues, and anxiety-inducing environments that can be distressing. It is hoped that the framework will help to break down these barriers and see more autistic people in jobs they love.
Minister for Disabled People, Chloe Smith, said:
“Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to find a job they love and to progress in their career, but we know we must do more to help people with autism. By testing this autism framework and offering new specialist training to our Jobcentre staff we are helping to deliver more employment opportunities for those who would otherwise feel locked out, as we work towards seeing one million more disabled people in work by 2027.”
The framework explores how best to support autistic people into employment, including ensuring Jobcentre appointments with autistic customers take place in the right environment and educating local employers in the additional requirements of autistic workers.
For example, many autistic people become distressed in busy, bright or noisy environments. As part of the pilot, job centre staff will therefore be asked to carry out appointments with customers triggered in this way in quieter rooms, with more appropriate lighting.
Work coaches will also be able to help providers and employers in the local communities understand the additional needs required by autistic employees, which should in turn create more opportunities for autistic job-seekers in settings where they can thrive.
If successful, the framework could be rolled out to more job centres in England, Scotland and Wales, benefiting thousands of people with autism.
Christine Flintoft-Smith, Head of Autism Accreditation at the National Autistic Society, said:
“We are pleased to be working in partnership with the DWP to make sure autistic people get the support they need, delivered in the way they need it, when they visit Jobcentres. We both want to work to close the autism employment gap and make sure autistic people are getting the help they need to get jobs. Our framework of best practice has been developed with input from autistic people, specifically for Jobcentres. We want all Jobcentre staff to understand autism, be able to think about their practice and make the necessary changes to the support and environment that autistic people need.”
Hector Minto, Lead Accessibility Evangelist at Microsoft, said:
“Technology has the potential to greatly empower disabled people in the workplace, but awareness is often low, people don’t know that there is support built into modern digital experiences. In creating this training with DWP, built on our own internal training, we found there is terrific passion and energy in this workforce to share their knowledge with jobseekers. I am confident that it will drive real impact and help us tackle a real challenge in society.”