By Linda Foo Guest
A WIRRAL group has won national recognition for helping to get people in to work.
Wirral Autistic Society runs the specialist programme, Step into Work Plus, which helps people with autism find work.
Their achievement has been recognised by being shortlisted for a national Independent Specialist Care Award, 2014 in the Autism Spectrum Services category.
The programme not only helps people with Asperger Syndrome to be prepared for the world of work, but also helps employers recognise they can be capable and dependable employees.
It is funded by a Big Lottery grant and each student has a 12-week work placement.
Although a quarter of students have had two or three placements, to date six remain as volunteers and eight have 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.
“We’ve had some great outcomes 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.”
Chris Birss, 18, did an unpaid work placement at New Brighton’s Light Cinema with the front of house team. Now he has been given a permanent part-time paid role.
Chris, from Birkenhead, added: “I have been thrilled to participate, and 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.”
Chris’s mum, Lynn Birss, said: “I’m so glad we got Chris a place on this programme. 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 the programme and how it can help your young people and change your life.”
Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on March 12.