My name is George Harvey and I am a Youth Patron for Ambitious about Autism.
On December 1st myself and several other Patrons met with local MPs at the Palace of Westminster, to discuss key issues of employability for young people with autism and what we thought could be done to improve them.
Ambitious about Autism has always believed in making the lives of young people with autism better, and as a Youth Council the number of young people with autism going into full time paid employment is an issue we've taken very seriously over the past few months.
Research has shown that only 15% of adults with Autism are in paid, full-time employment - despite the majority saying they want to work. The reasons for this are numerous: discrimination; lack of experience and/or opportunities. But the fact remains that 85% of autistic adults are unemployed because of their condition. And we believe this shocking figure has to change.
MPs attending our meeting included Jonathan Reynolds MP, a Parliamentary Autism Officer; John Bercow MP, House of Commons Speaker; Caroline Nokes MP, Education Committee Member, and Lord Tim Clement-Jones (President of Ambitious about Autism).
After an opening speech by our chairman, the meeting was handed over to me and the other Youth Patrons. Each of us presented sections of a PowerPoint, which not only discussed our personal experiences with employability, but our opinions on what we thought the key issues were: post 16 education, careers guidance, and work skills and experience.
The MPs took great interest in everything we had to say and later joined us in groups to discuss the key issues in further detail. With their knowledge of Parliament, we identified specific problems that affected young people with autism. These included: struggles to obtain work experience; the stress of higher education due to learning difficulties; and the lack of awareness of careers advice - and it's availability. Together we made a plan of actions that the government could take to provide extra support and services to these young people. The feedback we obtained from the meeting gave us a better idea of what to focus on in our upcoming 'Employ Autism' campaign.
We now have three main aims of our EMploy Autism Campaign for young people with autism;
1. We want them to have access to high quality, relevant careers guidance, which is tailored to the individual, and identifies all options and support available to them.
2. We want them to have opportunities to undertake meaningful work experience, develop their work skills and increase their familiarity within the workplace.
3. We want them to have access to high quality, educational opportunities beyond the age of 16 that equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to enter the world of work.
A lot was achieved at the Palace of Westminster that day and I was very honoured to be a part of it. I never imaged someone like me would be involved with something like politics which is why I'm proud to be Youth Patron.