Orbis Education and Care has opened a new day skills facility in Swansea, providing young people and adults with autism with a way to gain hands-on experience in the world of work.

"We wanted to provide a facility that offers learning beyond the school years, offering roles and responsibilities and the respect and status that comes with them."

Located on the High Street, The Orb is a shop, a café, an office and a laundry. The individuals who volunteer at The Orb have complex needs associated with autism and a learning disability.

We want to provide ongoing learning and work experience for young adults who may have left school and want to continue to gain work and life skills. At the moment, resources for school-leavers with autism are very limited and it often falls to the families to pick up where school finishes.

Work and life skills

Orbis Education and Care run a group of 14 services, including specialist schools, residential homes and other facilities for children and adults around Wales. It opened the first Orb in 2015 in Porth in the Rhondda, which has since provided work-skills, life-skills and continuous learning programmes to more than 30 people as part of its commitment to preparing individuals with autism for the world of work.

The Orb is another strand of the organisation’s Active Support approach to learning, which maintains that everyone has the right to a life that is as socially-valued as anyone else’s.

We wanted to provide a facility that offers learning beyond the school years, offering roles and responsibilities and the respect and status that comes with them. Those who volunteer are not only visible, but are also active and engaged members of their community, whilst accessing tailored full and part-time programmes of learning that combine work experience, life skills and leisure modules.

Visibility

The Orb looks like any second-hand shop on any high street where customers can browse the shelves and racks for clothes, books and toys donated by the public, as well as enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the café.

In April 2016, the National Autistic Society published its Autism Employment Gap Report, which turned the spotlight onto a series of concerning statistics relating to unemployment among adults with autism. The report found that whilst only 32 percent of autistic adults were in any kind of full or part time paid work, over 75 percent of unemployed autistic adults said they would actually like to be in work.

Orbis is currently recruiting specialist staff to join its schools and care homes around Wales. Visit Orbis’ website for more information about the group and the vacancies: www.orbis-group.co.uk.

Image: A young volunteer with Lucy Pottinger, Director of Education at Orbis Education and Care.