wirral autistic society chris simmA specialist programme in Wirral that helps people with autism into work has been shortlisted for a national Independent Specialist Care Award 2014 in the Autism Spectrum Services Category.

Step into Work Plus, set up by the Wirral Autistic Society, helps people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) get ready for the world of work through a 12-week work placement.

A quarter of the students who have signed up have had 2 or 3 placements, and to date 6 remain as volunteers and 11 have accepted permanent paid roles.

Programme manager, Beverley Breen, said; “We are delighted that news of our programme is spreading. We’ve had enquiries from as far afield as Kent, Northampton, Wales, Cheshire and Lancashire.

"Approximately 75% of people with autism or AS would like to work, but are actually claiming state benefits, so it’s not surprising that people want to snap up the opportunity to gain work and work experience."

A chance to shine
Chris Birss, 18, from Birkenhead (pictured), has taken part in Step into Work Plus and took up a work placement at the Light Cinema in New Brighton, where he did unpaid work as part of the front of house team. He has since been appointed to a permanent part-time paid role.

His manager at Light Cinema, Jane Woodason, said, “We are pleased to be giving Chris – and his warm and pleasant personality – a chance to shine here and have been impressed by the way he has developed skills and adapted to his tasks. We’ve watched his confidence grow and grow and he’s working really well with our customers and staff. He’s achieved a great deal and we are proud of him."

Further reading: 'NICE autism quality standard aims to address variations in care'

Other employers involved with the programme include Tranmere Rovers FC, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Caldy Cleaning and the ODEON Cinema in Bromborough.

Along with work placements, the full 24-week Step into Work Plus programme includes numerous workshops and field trips, where students get the chance to practice social skills. Students work together to develop new business ideas, play team games and work with IT programmes designed to aid concentration, memory and collaboration. On ‘Smart Fridays’ they have the opportunity to dress for business.

The winners of the Independent Specialist Care Awards 2014 will be announced at an award ceremony in London on March 12.