Jim Doherty: Criminals pay for autistic youngsters to take their first steps into work

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Thanks to a Scottish ­Government initiative called CashBack for ­Communities, more than 40 ­autistic young people have taken positive steps towards employment this year on the National Autistic Society ­Scotland’s Moving Forward ­programme.

Across west central Scotland, the National Autistic Society are ­working with people on the autistic spectrum to help them develop skills for the workplace, gain social confidence and find employment.

Jason, 22, from Possilpark in ­Glasgow, has been a recent ­beneficiary of Moving Forward with CashBack for Communities.

Jason has a long-held interest in drama and self-referred to Moving Forward with a view to developing his confidence and resilience as he seeks to develop a career within the field of acting and performance.

Jason is now participating in ­Limitless, a pilot project offering training and support for young people ­interested in a career in the performing arts, a collaboration between Royal Conservatoire of ­Scotland and National Theatre of Scotland.

The National Autistic Society aims to close the autism employment gap – the charities’ research found that just 16 per cent of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid work and only 32 per cent of autistic adults are in some kind of paid work, compared to 47 per cent of disabled people and 80 per cent of the general population. The charity takes a two-pronged approach, ­supporting autistic ­people to find work and helping employers to ensure that autistic people succeed in post.

The National Autistic Society’s Moving Forward programme with CashBack for Communities offers a flexible, person-centred pathway for autistic young people.

Mentoring is a key element of that pathway, matching those young ­people who are furthest from employment with volunteer ­mentors. The Scottish Mentoring Network recently awarded Moving Forward the ‘Inclusion Project of the Year’ with our ­volunteer mentor Becky Preston being recognised as a highly-commended mentor.

The charity works with a range of public partners including GPs, Jobcentre Plus, Skills Development Scotland, social services, schools and ­universities, as well as the ­private sector, to promote Moving Forward with CashBack for Communities. Our latest employer engagement ­presentation was with Viridor, a ­recycling, renewable energy and waste ­management company.

The programme is open to young people, aged between 16 to 24 from West Central Scotland, who have a diagnosis of autism, people like 21-year-old Emma from Coatbridge.

Emma was referred to The National Autistic society’s Moving Forward programme through her local Jobcentreplus office. Emma was keen to find paid employment, ideally ­within the beauty industry having previously achieved an NC in Beauty Therapy and Level 6 in Make-Up Artistry.

During her initial assessment meeting, Emma explained that she found social interaction challenging and at times processing information was difficult for her too.

Having attended our workshops on social confidence and anxiety ­management, Emma began a two days a week work placement within a beauty salon in Glasgow city centre. After successfully completing that placement, Emma was offered a 21 hour per week post as a beauty therapist within the salon.

Over the next three years, the goal is to support 300 young people from Scotland’s most deprived ­communities thanks to the £583,000 received from CashBack for ­Communities.

This is a unique Scottish Government ­programme which takes money seized from criminals under the ­proceeds of crime legislation and invests them in projects for Scotland’s most disadvantaged young people.

The benefits of the funding will be felt right across Scotland: autistic people will increase in independence and confidence, employers will gain their skills and commitment, and ­taxpayers will save on out-of-work benefit payments.

If you, or someone you know, could benefit or you are a business interested in learning more then please do get in touch by phoning 0141 248 1725 or emailing moving.forward@nas.org.uk.

For more information, you can visit the website www.autism.org.uk

Jim Doherty, programme ­manager, The National Autistic Society Scotland.