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This Carers Week we’re featuring a blog by Mel Jefferson, a parent whose daughter Anna has secured and sustained a permanent paid job at Tesco following support from the Engage to Change project. Over to Mel…

My daughter Anna has been supported by the Engage to Change project for 18 months via ELITE Supported Employment. We have found their support to be invaluable in helping her to settle into and continue to work effectively in a permanent paid job.

Anna has Aspergers and after leaving college, spent four years looking for a job in retail. Despite short-term work placements organised by three other providers who help those with a disability, they never resulted in a permanent job. The experience strengthened her CV, she continued to apply for close to 100 jobs and attended numerous interviews, but was never successful.

I then found Engage to Change and realised that their approach was different, possibly more labour- intensive but more likely to achieve long-term sustainable results.

In my view, the main difficulties for young adults with Autism are that they are disadvantaged by the interview process and once in work, struggle to settle into the job and integrate with work colleagues. An understanding and acceptance of some of the behaviours is also needed by work colleagues who may not know about autism. The intensive job coach support used by ELITE ensures the young person is supported with all of the aforementioned issues in a way that other organisations do not, in my experience.

I know from discussions with Anna’s manager at Tesco that they also value this support in the settling-in process, and it encourages them to consider others with autism as they now realise their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

There will be an increasing number of young adults with autism who will need such support. Much funding rightly goes into establishing the diagnosis, but the next challenge is to give them the opportunity to lead an independent and purposeful life where possible.

It’s lovely, brings a tear to my eye.