Wirral Autistic Society's work training scheme shortlisted for national award

Chris Birss outside Light Cinema

From left, Chris Birss with Light Cinema customer services assistant Cody Hinchliffe, Step into Work Plus placement officer Hema Chandrashekhar and Light Cinema senior operations manager Jamie Atherton.

Chris Birss with Step into Work Plus placement officer Hema Chandrashekhar at Light Cinema.

First published in News Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

WIRRAL Autistic Society's work training programme has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

Step into Work Plus - which helps people with Asperger's Syndrome, prepare for the world of work – has been nominated for an Independent Specialist Care Award.

The scheme, funded by a Big Lottery Grant, also helps employers recognise that they can be capable, dependable members of staff.

Since its launch, a quarter of the students have had two or three placements.

Six remain as volunteers and eleven have accepted permanent paid roles.

The winners of the specialist care awards will be revealed during a ceremony in London on March 12.

Programme manager Beverley Breen said: "We are delighted that news of our programme is spreading.

"We've had enquiries from as far afield as Kent, Northampton, Wales, Cheshire and Lancashire.

"Approximately 75 per cent of people with autism or AS would like to work, but are actually claiming state benefits, so it’s not surprising that people want to snap up the opportunity to gain work and work experience.

"We've had some great outcomes at Step into Work plus and our students are steady, reliable and trustworthy people who take such pride in what they do and, by working together, we aim to help employers to see their value too."

Among the scheme's successes is Chris Birss from Birkenhead, who took up a work placement at the Light Cinema in New Brighton.

The 18-year-old did unpaid work as part of the front of house team and he has since been rewarded with a permanent part-time paid job.

He said: "I have been thrilled to participate and have surprised myself with how much I have been able to achieve with support and advice from Step into Work plus.

"I really hope they win this award - it would be such a boost for all the other guys on the programme."

Jane Woodason, education manager at the Light Cinema, said: "We are pleased to be giving Chris – and his warm and pleasant personality – a chance to shine here and have been impressed by the way he has developed skills and adapted to his tasks.

"We've watched his confidence grow and grow and he’s working really well with our customers and staff. He’s achieved a great deal and we are proud of him."

Other employers involved with the programme include Tranmere Rovers FC, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, Caldy Cleaning and the Odean Cinema in Bromborough.

The full 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.

Robin Bush, chief executive of Wirral Autistic Society, said: "Since winning its Lottery grant in 2011, the Step into Work Plus team has achieved a tremendous amount and this award nomination is richly deserved.

"At the Wirral Autistic Society our aim is to be the gold standard service for people with autism. We don’t just want to be the best nationally – we want to be world class.”

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