The headlines tell us employment is going in a positive direction, representative of what Mr Brettell, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, describes as a ‘resilient UK jobs market’. For those with autism however it is a different picture.
According to recent figures by the ONS, UK unemployment fell by 7,000 to 1.6 million. For 84% of autistic adults, however, this hides a statistic which should shame a society from which the NHS was founded and that, as successive governments like to remind us, ‘works for everyone.’
According to the National Autistic Society only 16% of adults are in full-time employment, a fact which has not changed in a decade, when a previous survey put the figure at 15%.
Unemployment does not only rob many with autism of their potential but it can also lead to mental health problems, low-esteem and self-doubt, as the video below illustrates. In order for the wider picture to change however, employers need to understand that being autistic doesn’t define an individuals abilities or potential and with the right support autistic individuals can shine. Indeed, employing an autistic individual is an opportunity for employers to learn and develop themselves, not an obstacle. Common strengths that many autistic individuals possess include hyper-focus, imagination and reliability.
For myself and am sure for many others with Autism receiving a rejection email can, at least, in that very moment, be soul-crushing. Yet, even a bit of feedback makes that blow a little easier and for those employers, family and friends who believe in me, I will always be extremely grateful.
Statistics also make clear that 77% of those with autism do want to work. I am sure they are many, like me, who often struggle to get a good nights sleep, asking themselves over and over in their minds, when will I find that one understanding employer?
As you might guess by the title of this article this picture issue to be equally challenging for those with autism in Wales and indeed, Cardiff. What makes Cardiff uniquely placed to make a difference however, is that it is home to the first national autism research centre in the UK. Established in 2010, the Wales Autism Research Centre has undertaken internationally recognised research in the areas of behaviour and diagnosis, biological and cognitive processes and families and relationships in its mission to advance scientific understanding of autism.
As a city which celebrates and welcomes diversity, I believe that the opportunity is there for Cardiff to become home to leading autistic employment and make create a society which does truly work for everyone, autistic or not.