Summer parliamentary reception at the House of Lords
We hosted a fantastic parliamentary reception at the House of Lords this week to highlight the power of autism inclusion in the workplace. We heard about the impact of our groundbreaking Employ Autism programme from a number of inspiring speakers, including Sophie, an autistic young person whom the programme has supported into a fulfilling career at Marsh McLennan.
Employ Autism grew out of an idea suggested by autistic young people to address the very poor employment outcomes for their peers. It is now a nationwide programme that enables autistic young people to gain employability skills and paid work experience by providing autism resources, training, mentoring and paid internships. So far, we have supported over 500 autistic people to access paid work experience, and thousands more have received tailored careers support.
Our programme has been independently evaluated thanks to generous support from the Kusama Trust and during our parliamentary event we shared some preliminary findings from this research that are hugely encouraging. Over 80% of young people who have taken part in Employ Autism have been offered a contract extension or permanent role. The research shows that our approach gives autistic young people a better chance of securing work and increases the confidence of employers to benefit from a neurodiverse workforce.
We were delighted those representatives from Pears Foundation, The National Lottery Community Foundation, the Civil Service and Marsh McLennan - who have been instrumental in enabling us to grow Employ Autism on a national scale – were in attendance at our parliamentary event.
We also heard from Steve Woodhouse, Regional People Leader at Marsh McLennan UK, our corporate partner and a firm that is leading the way in the insurance industry as a champion of neurodiversity. During the event, Steve explained that Employ Autism “changes people’s lives” and “fundamentally improves organisations.”
The power of autism inclusion in the workplace
Our event took place in the heart of Westminster where we want to drive wider system change so that every autistic young person has the chance to take part in education, employment or training.
We were delighted to hear from Sir Robert Buckland KC MP, who is leading the government’s review designed to boost the employment opportunities of autistic people. Sir Robert opened his speech by saying:
“What we are talking about here isn’t disability, its potential, and it’s time to turn risk into opportunity, and that’s what I see around this room... It isn’t just about adjustments for autistic people, it’s about a culture change throughout the entire workforce; the way that we interview, the way we recruit and the way we retain employees has to undergo that step change.”
Minister for Disabled People, Tom Pursglove MP, then told us about how Sir Robert’s review will feed into the government’s wider strategy to ensure disabled people can reach their potential in employment. The Minister said:
“We are all here tonight because we all realise that the figure of less than three in ten autistic people in work is completely unacceptable. I couldn’t be clearer as Disability Minister, and government couldn’t be clearer that this shouldn’t be a barrier to employment, and we need to be ambitious about this and work together in a spirit of partnership to improve outcomes and opportunities.”
Ambitious about Autism has developed an Autism Covenant for Employers with the Department for Work and Pensions. Employers join Employ Autism by signing that commitment to create opportunities to support autistic people to enter, re-enter or remain in the workplace.
Ambitious about Autism’s vision is for every autistic young person to be in education, employment or training. We want a future where there are no autistic young people who are “NEET” (Not in Education, Employment or Training). We call on all parties to commit to action to deliver this vision. Firstly, by setting a target to double the employment rate for autistic people by 2030. Secondly, by joining up education, careers, training and employment support for autistic young people through Employment, Health and Care Plans.
We want to work with the government, and all parliamentarians, to make sure all autistic young people can access work and fulfill their potential. Thank you to all parliamentarians who pledged their support for ensuring more autistic job seekers can access employment on the night and big thanks also to our wonderful partners, funders, and employers for your continuing support of Employ Autism.
For more information, please read our leaflets:
About the authors
Danae Leaman-Hill is Director of External Affairs and Development at Ambitious about Autism. Claire Thompson is Director of National Services at Ambitious about Autism.