Helping autistic adults into work

Section 5 of the 2010 Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives strategy focuses on four aspects to support autistic adults in England with regards to employment:

  • ensuring they benefit from wider employment initiatives
  • personalising welfare and engaging employers
  • improving existing provision
  • developing new approaches that will better support them.

Why is employment important for autistic people?

The ability to get, and keep, a job and then to progress in work is the best route out of poverty, and a central part of social inclusion. Autistic people are significantly under-represented in the labour market and the Department of Health has committed to doing more to help them into work.

The National Autistic Society has developed The Undiscovered workforce resource pack to help campaigners, MPs and local authorities improve employment opportunities for autistic adults in their area.

What specific recommendations regarding employment were made in the strategy?

The following information has been copied from the 2010 strategy. We have included clause numbers from the strategy after each point. You can view the full autism strategy. Section 5 on employment starts on page 49.

Ensuring adults with autism benefit from wider employment initiatives

Young people are a particular area of focus for the Government during this period of economic downturn. Building Britain’s recovery: Achieving full employment therefore announced over 100,000 new opportunities for young people, meaning that from January 2010 all 18-24 year olds, including those with autism, will be guaranteed a job, work placement or work related skills training from the six month point of their claim to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). This will be delivered through:

  • a new job created through the Future Jobs Fund
  • help with getting an existing job in a key employment sector
  • new work-focused training opportunities, and/or
  • a place on a Community Task Force, delivering real help within local communities. (5.6)

[The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)] is committed to ensuring that these programmes work for young people with autism, and that the choices and support they are offered reflect their specific needs. (5.8)

Personalising welfare and work support

The Government will continue to take forward welfare reform to personalise the support given to people seeking work. At the core of this process is the principle that the ability to get and keep a job, and then to progress in work, is the best route out of welfare dependency. But the personal needs of individuals can differ vastly. Some require intensive support to build skills and overcome barriers to work, while others need little more than access to job opportunities. (5.9)

Reforming existing provision

Following recommendations for improvement made by the NAO, the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit report Improving the life chances of disabled people, the PAC and the views of many disabled people, employers, external delivery partners and Jobcentre Plus staff, DWP undertook a major review of its existing specialist disability employment provision (ie WORKSTEP, Work Preparation and the Job Introduction Scheme).

As a result, this provision has be replaced by a new programme – Work Choice. Work Choice will be a pan-disability programme, designed to help customers who face complex disability-related barriers and have the highest support needs to find and keep a paid job, or progress in work. The new programme will provide specialist support for adults with autism where DWP mainstream provision may not be appropriate or does not meet the particular needs of the individual. (5.17-5.18)

Jobcentre Plus has now changed Access to Work to improve support services for customers with autism. (5.21)

Developing new approaches that will better support adults with autism

Many of the initiatives recognise the importance of co-ordinated health and employment support for jobseekers. They build on the strong partnerships already created with GPs through the Pathways Advisory Services pilots, which tested placing Jobcentre Plus advisers in GP surgeries. These pilots are now being expanded to treble the capacity. (5.32)

As part of the ongoing goal to personalise support for disabled people – including adults with autism – the [Office for Disability Issues (ODI)]... has worked with disabled people to develop the Right to Control. This will give disabled people greater choice and control over the support and services they receive, and shift the balance of power from the state to the individual. (5.33)

DWP will also ensure Jobcentre Plus advisers are aware both of the need to make suitable adjustments for adults with autism and of the kinds of adjustments that may be beneficial. (4.11)

What the law says about disability equality

Understanding the rights of autistic adults is an important factor in making sure equality is upheld across the employment sector.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was a key piece of legislation put in place to safeguard against discrimination in employment. It places a Disability Equality Duty (DED) on public authorities to promote equality for disabled people. The autism strategy makes it clear that this duty applies to autistic adults.

From 1 October 2010, the Equality Act replaced most of the DDA. In April 2011, the DED was replaced by the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Find out about the 2014 Think Autism strategy and England's Autism Act.