Employment support is a key part of our recent campaigning activity, with 53% of people with autism saying they would like to receive more employment support.
The Autism Act 2009 and the Adult Autism Strategy 2010 had the potential to transform the lives of adults with autism. But our report ‘the undiscovered workforce’ shows that four years on too many adults are waiting for the support they need. For example, only 10% of people with autism said they receive employment support but 53% said they would like to receive it.
This could be due to a number of different reasons, including a lack of access to effective employment support services or most concerning, the lack of awareness of Job Centre Plus staff on how to effectively support and signpost to relevant services. There is an understandable reluctance from jobseekers with autism to access Job Centres due to the inaccessible nature of registering, as well as the reaction some job seekers have received from staff when disclosing their autism or Asperger syndrome.
“There have been times when I’ve turned up for an appointment at the job centre and the advisor I was supposed to meet wasn’t there. Then, they said I could see someone else instead. I walked out of the Job Centre. I had been thrown into an unfamiliar situation with no warning.” - Job seeker with autism
“When I went to the Job Centre and asked to be put on to a disability advisor. The person I spoke with was not helpful at all. She just looked at me with a shocked expression and said “you’ve got autism?!” in a loud and disbelieving voice.” - Job seeker with autism
Comments like these does not necessarily mean the advisor is being ignorant or purposely unhelpful. It is often due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of practical strategies that can be used to support a job seeker with autism.
We want to ensure Job Centre Plus staff are provided with the knowledge and tools to support every job seeker effectively, including how to correctly signpost to the relevant employment support services.
We need to be able to demonstrate to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) the experiences of current job seekers accessing the job centre have been, at times, negative and unhelpful. To do this we have developed a short questionnaire for job seekers or their parents/carers to complete. This feedback will be used to ensure the government is following the guidelines of the Autism Act 2009.
Our first meeting with the DWP is at the beginning of March and we will keep you updated on the progress of any agreed action points.
Find out more about the work that we do here: http://www.autism.org.uk/