The National Autism Strategy aims to help all adults with autism into work. Kellie Nauls, project coordinator for the Moving On Employment Project in the Shetland Islands, talks about how a pilot in the region is helping young people with autism to find and keep a job.
The Government's long-term aim is a national employment rate of 80% (Department for Work and Pensions, 2008). However, only 12% of people with high-functioning autism, or Asperger syndrome, have full-time jobs (National Autistic Society, 2012). As part of the provisions of the Autism Act (2009), the Government published a National Autism Strategy (2010) and one of its aims is that all adults with autism are helped into work.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways. Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with autism often have problems finding and keeping a job because of a lack of specialised information, advice and practical support (National Autistic Society, 2012).
The UK Government's response to the Sayce review (2011), "Disability employment support: fulfilling potential" (2012), recommends how more people with disabilities can be helped to move into and sustain work. It says that support agencies can better support the transition from education to employment, and that specialised assistance is important to ensure that people in this group have the same opportunities as other people. The Black report, "Working for a healthier tomorrow" (2008), states that young people need access to information and advice to make an informed decision about their future.
Freud (2007) highlighted that the voluntary sector runs programmes assisting those with complex problems back to work. The author of this article, an OH professional with a BA in OH nursing, is leading an innovative pilot project within the voluntary sector that is successfully supporting young people in this group into employment, education or training in the Shetland Islands.
Shetland is a remote and rural community with more than 100 small islands - just 15 of them inhabited. The islands span 100 miles (145km) and lie 600 miles (960km) north of London.