Practical and inexpensive steps will help more autistic people into work, Government says

Employers should ensure they have appropriate premises, furnishings, equipment and IT systems to help more autistic people in work, the Government has said.

Sir Robert Buckland, who led a review aimed at sparking a rethink into access to work, said he believes the recommendations can “make a truly radical difference to the lives of autistic people and their families”.

Charities welcomed the report and urged the Government to implement the changes “to ensure change is real and embedded”.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that only three in 10 working-age autistic people are in employment, despite the majority saying they would like to have a job.

The figure is lower than the half of all disabled people in employment and eight in 10 non-disabled people, the Government said.

The latest review is part of Government efforts to make the UK “the most accessible place in the world” and comes as it continues its welfare reforms aiming to get more disabled people and people with health conditions into work.

The Government said a dedicated taskforce will be set up to further the work of the review, which launched in April last year.

Among its 19 recommendations for businesses and Government are to sign up for the Autistica charity’s Neurodiversity Employers’ Index to access guidance on designing inclusive processes and procedures and encourage career progression by developing packages of training focused on autistic staff.

It also stated that recruitment could be improved by ensuring careers advisers can provide appropriate advice to autistic jobseekers.

Autistic people who are already in the workplace should be supported by producing “autism design guides” to create appropriate premises, furnishings and equipment, it recommended, and added that employers should work with software suppliers to develop IT systems that meet their needs.

Sir Robert (pictured) said: “It has been a tremendous privilege to compile this report, and to hear from hundreds of autistic people about their experiences. This is all about them, and we couldn’t have done it without their help.

“The review can make a truly radical difference to the lives of autistic people and their families. I call on employers and Government to lead this change and make these recommendations a reality.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said businesses and Government “must come together if we are to create the cultural change needed to move the dial”.

He added: “Backed by the extra employment support provided through our £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan, this report provides employers with practical and inexpensive steps to open up workplaces to autistic people, boost employment rates and, above all, change autistic people’s lives.”

Social care minister Helen Whately described the review as a “major step” to tackling barriers which she said have been in the workplace “for too long”.

Adam Micklethwaite, director of the Autism Alliance, said: “With so many skills and strengths to offer, it’s indefensible that autistic people continue to have one of the lowest employment rates of any group.

“We’re missing out on billions in benefit to the economy, and preventing autistic people from leading happy and fulfilled lives.

“We urge the Government to implement the recommendations of this important new report, led by a taskforce to ensure change is real and embedded.”

Anna Bird, chair of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, said: “We welcome this constructive review, particularly the idea of ensuring careers advisers are trained to provide appropriate advice to autistic jobseekers.

“We know from our Failed and Forgotten Report that only 12% of parents believe that their disabled young person receives the correct level of support to meet their needs from training, employment or voluntary placement. 64% of respondents had autistic children.

“We would ask that whoever forms the government after the election commits to this.”

Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “Three-quarters of unemployed autistic people say they want to work, but they need the right support.

“But on the Tories’ watch, the number of people stuck on the waiting list for the Government’s Access to Work support scheme has soared to a record high.

“It is time for change. A future Labour government will work closely with disabled people to ensure we have a scheme that works for autistic people, reduces the employment gap, and supports people into work.”

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