Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith
Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith

Thousands more disabled people are set to benefit from a new package of support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) designed to help them into the work they want.

The framework will also look at how assistive and digital technologies can support people into work, such as immersive readers, automated captions and magnifiers.

Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith has announced that 15 Jobcentre Plus sites will be testing an autism framework, designed with the National Autistic Society (NAS), to transform the service available to jobseekers on the autism spectrum. The framework pilot will aim to help people with autism find, retain and progress in fulfilling jobs.

This comes as 26,000 work coaches in jobcentres across the country are undergoing specialist accessibility training, delivered in partnership with Microsoft, in a further effort to help more disabled jobseekers secure employment.

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The work coaches will look at how they can support disabled jobseekers with assistive tools, which will not only improve their daily work but will also help with the completion of job applications and interviews.

It is hoped that the new framework will help to break down barriers for disabled people getting into employment and see more autistic people in jobs they love.

Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith said: “Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to find a job they love and to progress in their career, but we know we must do more to help people with autism.

“By testing this autism framework and offering new specialist training to our jobcentre staff we are helping to deliver more employment opportunities for those who would otherwise feel locked out, as we work towards seeing one million more disabled people in work by 2027.”

The framework explores how best to support autistic people into employment, including ensuring jobcentre appointments with autistic customers take place in the right environment and educating local employers in the additional requirements of autistic workers.

For example, many autistic people become distressed in busy, bright or noisy environments. As part of the pilot, jobcentre staff will therefore be asked to carry out appointments with customers triggered in this way in quieter rooms, with more appropriate lighting.

Work coaches will also be able to help providers and employers in the local communities understand the additional needs required by autistic employees, which should in turn create more opportunities for autistic jobseekers in settings where they can thrive, DWP says.

If successful, the framework could be rolled out to more jobcentres in England, Scotland and Wales, benefitting thousands of people with autism.

Hector Minto, Lead Accessibility Evangelist at Microsoft, commented: “Technology has the potential to greatly empower disabled people in the workplace, but awareness is often low, people don’t know that there is support built into modern digital experiences.

“In creating this training with DWP, built on our own internal training, we found there is terrific passion and energy in this workforce to share their knowledge with jobseekers. I am confident that it will drive real impact and help us tackle a real challenge in society.”

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