A new campaign to improve job opportunities for people with autism has been launched at a Parliamentary reception.

The campaign, The Undiscovered Workforce, which is run by the National Autistic Society (NAS), is being championed within Government by minister for welfare reform Lord Freud and has the backing of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Research by the NAS indicates that only 15% of adults with autism are in full-time employment, while 79% of those claiming out-of-work benefits want to work. In addition, 26% of graduates with autism are unemployed, by far the highest rate of any disability group.  But as the NAS points out, with the right support, people with autism can overcome the barriers to work that they often face. Simple adjustments like making job interviews more accessible and providing support so that those in work understand  the 'unwritten rules' of the workplace, can help people with autism to find and stay in employment.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said: "The vast majority of adults with autism in the UK want to work, but experience great difficulty in finding and staying in employment, often due to inadequate support and misunderstandings related to their condition. Any Government plans… aimed at helping unemployed people enter the workplace, must take into consideration the 'Undiscovered Workforce'. In these challenging economic times, we can't afford to let the skills and talents of people with autism go to waste." Lord Freud said: "We know how hard it can be for many people with autism to find and stay in work. Not because they don't have the skills, the commitment or the drive, but because many employers just don't understand the benefits of employing someone with autism. This means there is a too much potential going to waste, too many people in this country who could be more independent than they are, and too much wasted talent." For more information go to: www.autism.org.uk/undiscoveredworkforce