Arran Linton Smith, Penny Mordaunt, Max, Mark Lever
Arran Linton-Smith, Penny Mordaunt, Max (star of our employment film), Mark Lever

On Monday (31 October), we held a reception in Parliament to tell MPs and Lords about the latest phase of our Too Much Information campaign, which aims to close the autism employment gap. The event was a big success, with over 100 people (MPs, parliamentarians, autistic people and employers) attending. They watched our new campaign film and heard from speakers including Arran Linton-Smith, an autistic adult who, with the right support, has a successful career in the construction industry. 

The Government pledged to halve the disability employment gap. But our new research indicates that for autism, the employment gap is even wider, with just 32% of autistic people in full or part-time work, compared to 47% of disabled people and 80% of non-disabled people. 

We’ve produced a report setting out how the Government and employers can help close the autism employment gap once and for all. You can read more about this on our Too Much Information pages. We’ve also launched a petition calling on the Government to double the number of autistic people in work, which you can sign online.

We welcomed the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt MP, to our event. She had just been in the House of Commons announcing the Government’s new consultation on disability employment. This document (a ‘Green Paper’) is called ‘Improving Lives: the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper’, and it asks for feedback about how the Government can halve the disability employment gap.

We asked the Minister to give her support to three key things in our report:
  • to support doubling the number of autistic people in work
  • to make sure that autistic people can access specialist autism support to help them 
  • to help raise awareness of autism among employers.

We were all very pleased to hear her answer to this: “Yes, yes and yes.” 

The Government’s Green Paper contains some ideas that could benefit autistic people who are looking for and in work, including:

  • new personal support packages, including support from trained work coaches, a ‘Health and Work Conversation’ and referral to different kinds of support
  • enabling people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance to get employment support if they want it
  • supporting and encouraging more employers to recruit disabled people.

However, the NAS has some concerns that the Government is asking questions about whether it should extend the use of benefit sanctions to people in the Support Group. These are people who have been assessed as not being able take steps towards work and it’s vital that any support they are offered is voluntary.

The Green Paper is a long document, containing lots of ideas and questions. With all its proposals, training and understanding autism will be crucial to the Green Paper's success.

We will be responding to the consultation, which is open until 17 February 2017. It is really important that autistic people’s voices are heard in the consultation. We will be contacting our campaigners with ways to get involved, but the first step is to make the Government hear our voices loud and clear on this issue by signing our petition to close the autism employment gap today.

Commenting on the consultation, our Chief Executive, Mark Lever, said: "Today’s announcement starts a welcome conversation about how to open up the workplace for disabled people – and ultimately halve the disability employment gap. The proposals look across the system, covering the role of employers, support finding work, benefits and the health service. 

“This is long overdue as the current system clearly isn't working for autistic people, who have a huge contribution to make to our economy and society. Our new research indicates that just 16% of autistic people are in full-time paid work, and this doesn’t appear to have changed in almost a decade. 

"For unemployed autistic people, a key proposal in the Green Paper is the new system of personal support packages. If implemented properly, this could help autistic people access tailored support, which we know vastly increases their chances of getting into work. 

But, to be successful, the Government must provide funding and training to make sure this support is delivered by people who understand autism and what support will work for autistic people.

"Today’s announcement refers to involving the voluntary sector, and our charity will be ready to help by sharing the autism expertise we’ve built up over the past 50 years.

"The Green Paper is only the start and we encourage autistic people and families to contribute to the consultation. We will be responding to highlight our latest research findings and urging the Government to develop programmes that will really work to close the autism employment gap once and for all."