People with hidden disabilities are set for a more enjoyable journey into employment - all thanks to the efforts of Wearsiders.
It comes after a focus group organised by the North East Autism Society and Sunderland-based Autism in Mind helped come up with the idea for an ‘autism passport’ to be taken on interviews and into Jobcentres.
To coincide with World Autism Awareness Week, the passport and online ‘employer’s toolkit’ is launched today.
The scheme, in partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions and other leading disability organisations, will mean potentially difficult and anxious situations like job interviews could be thwarted.
It could make the journey to work for those with disabilities and hidden impairments a is much more enjoyable – and realistic – proposition.
Twenty-three-year-old Michael Crewe, from Sunderland, is currently enrolled in the North East Autism Society’s Employment Futures Unlock Your Potential programme which supports adults with autism into work.
He said: “I think this is a brilliant idea and it would be immensely helpful for me.
“Just walking into the Jobcentre knowing I have something that’s official to present, so they know about me rather than me trying to explain it to them would be incredible.
“It’s a great idea.”
It is thought that 68% of adults with a known autism spectrum condition (ASC) in the North East are unemployed, regardless of qualifications.
The Autism Alliance UK, RNIB, St Andrew’s Healthcare, Autism Plus, Dimensions, The Dyslexia Association, and the North East Autism Society has worked with the Department of Work and Pensions to launch the scheme.
Alongside the Passport will also be an online Autism and Neurodiversity Toolkit for staff and managers in workplaces and Jobcentres to provide the latest information, guidance and support for people with hidden impairments in, or looking for, work.
One of the key players in campaigning for the passport and toolkit to be created was John Phillipson, CEO of the North East Autism Society.
He said: “When we talked to adults with autism in particular it became clear that experiences of visiting job centres and prospective employers weren’t always good.
“A lot of people found the whole experience difficult and explaining why they found it difficult even harder.
“I was thrilled when the North East Autism Society and Autism in Mind worked together to talk through this with some adults who would most benefit from support, and we came up with the idea for the passport and what should go in it.”
Carole Rutherford, director of Services from Autism in Mind, said: “I’m thrilled we’ve finally got here and have something that will actually be of help to adults with autism who really struggle walking into job centres and interviews when they don’t ‘speak the language’.
“The adults in the focus group from Sunderland were very clear that more support was needed.
“I hope the passport will do just that.”