David Perkins, Director of AS Mentoring (London, Birmingham, Bristol & Poole)

Working with Autism Forward has made our support accessible to a much wider range of clients and the engaged and collaborative nature of the Trustees has enabled us to put in a truly personalised range of support to each person. The overall focus is always on employment – and Autism Forward’s funding has meant we can offer all the necessary pre-employment support, from initial discussions and CV preparation all the way through to direct support at interview, when required – but it’s often necessary to resolve other entrenched issues in order to make employment a realistic and feasible outcome for people who’ve had a lifetime of knock backs. With our Autism Forward-funded clients so far we’ve engaged with housing issues (interceding with letting agents, support at meetings to prevent eviction, relocation support, to take up a job offer in a new city); debt and benefits issues (brokering input from CAB debt specialists, support to engage with DWP/JobCentres); and provided social skills training to address some of the issues that had previously limited or precluded employment for people. We’ve already seen around a third of our Autism Forward clients secure a job. It’s been a pleasure to see people flourish, and it’s Autism Forward’s funding which has made it possible. And remember, many of these guys would otherwise have been at real risk of what would in effect have been permanent social exclusion.

Thomas Cliffe, Director of Track NN Limited (Northampton)

Working with Autism Forward has simply allowed me to support people in making a life changing difference. By taking away time pressures and making support entirely personalised we have supported people in a variety of ways. For example, one individual we work with had not left his house in several years after leaving college and now following the mentoring is visiting workplaces and moving closer to roles which will allow him to develop a range of skills. For others we have been able to secure voluntary and paid work, by working with the individual and employers to ensure a smooth transition into the workplace. Seeing people develop their confidence and self esteem is in a large part thanks to the work which Autism Forward supports us in delivering.

Carl Cameron, Mentor at Matthew’s Hub (Hull)

Autism Forward has not only supported the people who I mentor into employment, they have also supported me into employment too. I first learned about Autism Forward while in another mentoring role, this time supporting autistic undergraduate students at the University of Hull. I was on zero hours contract and struggling, no work for over 4 months during summer recess as an example. I have been mentoring now at Matthew’s Hub since June 2018. I adore my job; I get to make a real difference to people’s lives. As an autistic person who has struggled in the workplace, who has been discriminated against and found it hard to find the right role which matched my skill set I understand exactly how it is for my mentees, the challenges which they have faced, the unique skills autistic people have to offer. Since working with Autism Forward I have supported autistic teachers, building designers and gardeners back into employment. I have supported people short term to retain employment when things got tough and they would have had nowhere to turn if it was not for the work we do here (they are still employed). In addition, I have also supported autistic people into voluntary roles with another of our partners, this time rebuilding towers and laptop computers. None of this would have been possible without Autism Forward, they are, like Matthew’s Hub, a very important and unique charity, one which I hope to be associated with for the rest of my working life.

Lucy Dunhill, Autism Forward beneficiary mentored by Carl Cameron of Matthew’s Hub (Hull)

Matthew’s Hub have been my rock, I have absolutely no idea where I would be without them. I was in a very bad place when I first met Carl, I was about to lose my job and it felt like my world was falling apart. At that time, in the moments before I arrived at the hub, I was not sure if I was autistic, I just knew that I needed to know. My colleagues kept cracking jokes and making comments about Asperger’s and me for months. After a few minutes talking to Carl we both knew that I was autistic. After that everything happened so quickly, I was referred for diagnosis (which Carl attended with me) and I received the news I so desperately needed, that I am on the autistic spectrum. I have met with Carl for mentoring sessions every week since, for work and to learn about autism, to learn about myself. Everyone has been amazing, they have supported me to keep my house, my benefits have been sorted and my anxiety levels are much lower than they were. Because I received so much support it’s allowed me to begin to plan and dream and focus again. I am now in partnership Hull City Council working towards the regeneration of White friar Gate in Hull City centre where the empty shop fronts will become green spaces, living walls. This is a very real and genuine opportunity for me to do what I really want to do, I have the space to be creative again. I can not thank everyone enough.

Autism Forward beneficiary mentored by Autism Bedfordshire

It has been such a relief to finally get some genuinely helpful employment support. It is nice to finally have someone not only understands my situation but understands my Asperger’s and how this affects me in day to day life, I feel actually valued for once. It has made me feel a lot more optimistic about the chances of me getting a job as well as about my future in general. It doesn’t feel like such a lonely battle now as I have help in finding jobs and working out my career options, I also feel I have a lot more confidence in writing covering letters and application forms because of always having the knowledge that I have someone who will help, reassure and back me up.

Jonathan Young

I have been at Goldman Sachs for over ten years now, and it is something that would not have been possible without the help of having a good mentor. Before landing what has been my dream job, it was mentor in the form of an employment consultant, who pushed me in the right direction encouraging me to explore new avenues I previously saw as inaccessible, as well as greatly helping with my CV writing and Interview skills and making me realise just how much I had to offer.

It was then a mentor in the form of my supervisor, who ensured I was able to turn what was originally a work placement, into a full time job by sharing their vast knowledge, and ensuring I was always on track and motivated, and able to view it as a long term career. Since being taken on full time, and in the ten years that have followed, I’ve had many mentors all of which have been tailored to suit my goals as my career continues to develop and evolve and it has been through their knowledge and ability to motivate that I continue to go from strength to strength.

Investing time in a good mentor can have a genuinely positive impact to the life of someone with autism, providing them to with the knowledge, and motivation that can change their outlook on life, allowing them to gain the confidence to realise their potential, and pursue their goals. Continued mentorship can enable them to excel, and achieve things they never imagined possible.

 An Interview with James

Specialist mentoring can transform the life and prospects of young adults with autism as revealed in this interview with James, a client of one of our mentor partners, AS Mentoring.

What aspects of job seeking do you find most difficult?
Deciding what I need and what I want to go for. Recognising what is obtainable and not scaring myself off.  Agreeing to meet people!

How has mentoring helped you with these difficult aspects of job seeking?
Calmed me down and settled nerves, often providing a step by step process and making the process seem more achievable. Talking about it can make it seem more doable.

What specific issues has your mentor helped you address that you were not getting help with elsewhere?
Focusing the mind on job-searching whereas before I was scaring myself off from even broaching the subject. Understanding problems I faced/built up in my mind and breaking them down one at a time.

What is your best experience in the workplace?
Getting a job and holding onto it. Being told that what I am doing is correct and existing in the workplace. Making friends and companions.

What is your best tip for others in relation to finding a job or in the workplace?
It is never as hard as you make out, just take your time and speak through your problems/anxieties/hang-ups with someone who can help you break them down.

Chris Christofi – BT employee

I started on a 6 week placement through the Undiscovered Workforce project run by an autism charity in collaboration with BT. I went to work in the BT.com team in March 2010. The placement was successful and was extended. I became a permanent BT employee in April 2011. Over the years, I have received a lot of support from my manager Jon Boulton, Dan Parker Head of CRM, Reporting and Analytics and Andy Kilbane the head of the Insights Team. I have also received both pre-employment and ongoing mentoring support from organisations like AS Mentoring. If this was not available, it is unlikely I would be working at BT today.

When I completed my Master’s degree and was looking for a job, I was allocated a Mentor from the autism charity who provided pre-employment support for me. This involved training to build my skills through one to one sessions and small group workshops focussing on a number of areas including communication skills, job searching, and interview skills and creating an effective CV. I am currently receiving “On going” in Work mentoring support from Laura Williams of AS Mentoring, and both myself and my managers at BT have found this very beneficial. I meet my Employment Consultant (Laura) on a weekly basis, with my line manager Jon Bolton. We are currently working on reducing my stress and anxiety using CBT techniques and have recently worked on a coping strategy with Jon in processing urgent requests – which in due course will be extended across the Insights Team.

Thanks to my line manager Jon and Laura from AS Mentoring, my confidence has improved considerably over the last few months. When I first started work in 2010, my job involved running very basic reports. I am now working on strategic projects such as FIRE. This involves providing insight on how Real time decisioning is performing, for our Existing Online customers. I am also fully integrated in the team and business working directly with stakeholders. I am excited about the Future of BT and I am hoping to work here, for many years to come.