Improved training for front-line public sector workers is at the heart of a new government strategy aimed at enhancing the lives of adults with autism.
The ‘Fulfilled and Rewarding Lives’ strategy is intended to improve diagnosis and access to services, and tackle social exclusion and unemployment, which currently stands at 85% for adults with autism.
Under the plan, which is underpinned by the Autism Act 2009, £500,000 will be invested to develop training with professional bodies in health and social care, while autism awareness training will be given to all Jobcentre Plus Disability employment advisers.
Jim Thomas, programme head at Skills for Care, the sector skills council for the social care sector, welcomed the funding boost for training.
“Generally, the training that is provided to those working full-time with people with autism is OK, but there is a need for training across the wider social care network,” he told Personnel Today.
Providing dedicated training for Jobcentre Plus staff is “essential”, according to Thomas. “People with autism often get mixed up with people with learning disabilities,” he said. “Unless the Jobcentre staff get the right training, adults with autism are going to miss out on a range of employment opportunities.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, added: “This long-awaited strategy is the first step to ensuring adults with autism will be able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the rest of society. So now the next step will be to translate the strategy into decisive action at a local level. This momentous opportunity to transform the lives of people with autism and their families must not be wasted.”
The Department of Health will set up a national autism programme board, co-chaired by care services minister Phil Hope and David Behan, director-general of social care.
Hope said: “I want the autism strategy to be the foundation for change in the way our whole society treats adults with autism. They have a huge contribution to make – shutting them out deprives everyone.
“It is unacceptable that adults with autism are not getting the support they need to live independently and find work. This strategy will start a fundamental change in public services with better awareness and understanding.”
XpertHR on employing people with autism
“Businesses benefit from employing people in roles that suit their skillset. If they genuinely want to recruit and retain the best people, they should be concentrating on ability, rather than disability.
“For example, a candidate with autism may not be recruited because of prejudice and stereotyping, yet they may well have the core skills needed for the role, such as dedication to routine tasks and spotting anomalies in large amounts of data.”
Jo Stubbs, employment law editor, XpertHR