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National recognition for Wirral Autistic Society employment programme

Step into Work Plus, a specialist programme to help people with autism into work run by Wirral Autistic Society is not only proving highly successful for those involved and receiving enquiries from across the UK, it has now been shortlisted for a prestigious national Independent Specialist Care Award, 2014.

Robin Bush, Chief Executive of the Wirral Autistic Society, said, "Since winning its Lottery grant in 2011, the Step into Work Plus team has achieved a tremendous amount and this award nomination is richly deserved. At the Wirral Autistic Society our aim is to be the gold standard service for people with autism. We don't just want to be the best nationally - we want to be world class."

Designed to help those with Asperger Syndrome (AS) get ready for the world of work, the 24 week programme includes a 12 week work placement for those with AS. To date a quarter of the students have already had two or three placements with six remaining as volunteers and 11 accepting paid roles.

The 24 week programme also 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 programme also helps employers recognise that those with AS can be capable, dependable members of staff.

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 per cent 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. We've had some great outcomes at Step into Work plus and our students are steady, reliable and trustworthy people who take such pride in what they do and, by working together, we aim to help employers to see their value too."

This highly successful programme has already shown how much of an impact it can have on people's lives.  Chris Birss, 18, from Birkenhead, who 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 and has since been rewarded with a permanent part-time paid role said, " I have been thrilled to participate and have surprised myself with how much I have been able to achieve with support and advice from Step into Work plus. I really hope they win this award - it would be such a boost for all the other guys on the programme. "

Jane Woodason, Education Manager at the Light Cinema, 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."

Chris's mother, Lynn Birss, added, "I'm so glad we got Chris a place on this programme. He has come on in leaps and bounds. I was worried about him finding work but he's fitted in really well at the Light Cinema.  The whole team have helped him learn and now he works as part of that team, doing everything the others do.  Now I just want to tell other parents of children with autism about Step into Work plus and how it can help your young people and change your life."

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

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

Independent Specialist Care Awards: Now in their fourth year, these awards highlight the best performing private and voluntary providers of social care services for adults with learning or physical disabilities or mental health conditions. www.laingbuisson.co.uk/Events/IndependentSpecialistCareAwards/

Wirral Autistic Society: Founded in 1968, the society cares for and supports people with autism and social communication difficulties.  It offers specialist support services for families and children, residential care, respite care and supported living, amongst others. www.wirral.autistic.org

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Last Updated : 25 February 2014. Page Author: marijke.hirst.