WAAW: What's the impact of ongoing support in the workplace?

[Pictured: Johnny, a current college student, on his work experience at a local farm.]

In our last blog post, we discussed the importance of work experience and supported internships for our young people looking to enter work. Today, we take a look at two students with autism who left the college and wanted to find work.

Lucas is a young man with autism, severe learning disabilities and a hearing impairment who graduated the college in July 2013, after completing a three year course. He mostly uses BSL (British Sign Language) to communicate although he was able to build on his literacy skills while at the college to start using an iPad to communicate with others.

During his time at college, Lucas showed great determination to find a job in the future. He was interested by people working in his presence and enjoyed emulating the ways in which they approached certain tasks, and he was particularly enthusiastic when studying vocational options. Lucas seemed to prefer active, practical roles and his onsite work experience was arranged with the maintenance department. His work there impressed the team to such an extent that Lucas was offered the opportunity to apply for a job-carved paid role with Seashell’s maintenance department after leaving the college. He did so, and successfully completed a ‘working interview’ over several days in which he demonstrated his ability to consistently carry out a variety of tasks including delivering food trollies, cleaning vehicles and sorting recycling.

Due to Lucas’ communication needs, he requires ongoing support from a BSL user who understands the use of alternative communication systems. As part of his transition from college, our job coach and transition coordinator worked with Lucas to apply for individual support from Access to Work. Three years’ support from a personal assistant was approved, and Lucas was able to take up his position as an enthusiastic and productive member of the maintenance team.

Hafsa is a young woman with autism and severe learning disabilities who completed a three year college course and graduated in July 2014. Although Hafsa experienced a lot of anxiety, particularly in busy, crowded or noisy environments, she loved completing her work experience in a café – and was so positive and relaxed that she would sing while she worked!

She received glowing feedback from the organisations who had offered her work experience and Hafsa learned a number of new skills in a range of settings which included a kitchen, a printing company and in a warehouse. As Hafsa began to consider her future after finishing college, she worked with the job coach to prepare to progress into work and was offered a part-time role with a local company.

Unfortunately for Hafsa, when she applied to Access To Work to secure an assistant who would travel with her and support her at work, she was refused and told that she did not qualify for support from Access To Work so that she could access work but that the responsibility lay instead with adult social care. Undeterred, Hafsa applied for adult social care support and was refused again – they would not allow her to use a personal assistant at work.

With the right support in place, Lucas has successfully found a job which he finds interesting and fulfilling. He has taken on new responsibilities and adjusted well to workplace expectations, and his work ensures the smooth running of the services Seashell Trust offers to students and members of the community. In Lucas’ case, the challenge for the future will be to make sure that he continues to receive the support he needs to stay in work. Meanwhile, Hafsa wants to work and had successfully applied for a job – but was refused the assistance which would have made this possible.

We know all the young people at Seashell have so much to offer their communities. If – and for too many young people with complex needs, that ‘if’ is a very big if indeed – we can make sure that the right support is in place, they’ll be sure to prove it to everyone else too.


Are you an employer wondering how work experience placements might work for you? Download our Valuing Employment Now brochure for more details or contact us at info@seashelltrust.org.uk or by telephone on 0161 610 0100 to request more information.