Wirral Autistic Society has won a major national award for a project that helps its clients get ready for the world of work.
The Step into Work Plus programme, which is funded by a Big Lottery grant, beat strong competition from across the UK to win an Independent Specialist Care Award, 2014 (Autism Spectrum Services Category).
The award was presented by Michael Portillo at a black tie event in London’s Lancaster hotel.
Programme Manager Beverley Breen said that the programme not only helps people with Asperger Syndrome get ready for work, but also helps employers recognise that they can be capable, dependable members of staff. She said, “The judges stated how difficult it had been to choose the winner and we are delighted that our programme was chosen. I feel so proud of what our small team has achieved. There are only two of us and we set up this programme from nothing with no telephone or furniture, just our Big Lottery grant. This has been a labour of love and to be recognised nationally is fantastic. Our real success is our students and without their hard work we wouldn’t be looking good at all.”
The 24-week Step into Work Plus programme includes numerous workshops and field trips, where students get the chance to practice social skills. Students work together to develop new business ideas, play team games and work with IT programmes designed to aid concentration, memory and collaboration.
The Lottery funding stipulates that each student should also have one 12-week work placement. In fact, a quarter of the students have had two or three placements, and to date six remain as volunteers and eleven have accepted permanent paid roles. Employers involved with the programme include Tranmere Rovers FC, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Caldy Cleaning and the Light Cinema in New Brighton.
The Independent Specialist Care Awards recognise the best providers of social care services for adults with learning or physical or mental health disabilities.
Robin Bush, Chief Executive of the Wirral Autistic Society, said, “Watching Bev and her colleague Hema Chandrashekhar receiving their award, in front of thousands of colleagues from the worlds of health and social care, was a tremendous moment. They’ve worked incredibly hard and rightly deserve this recognition from their peers. This has been a great way to start 2014 and we hope to be able to showcase more of our world-class work in the future.”
Founded in 1968, the society cares for and supports people with autism and social communication difficulties. It offers specialist support services for families and children, residential care, respite care and supported living, amongst others. www.wirral.autistic.org