New review aims to close employment gap for people with autism
Charities have welcomed the launch of a review aimed at sparking a rethink into access to work for people with autism.
Employment rates for this group are particularly low with fewer than three in 10 in work, the Government said.
The Buckland Review of Autism Employment will consider issues including how employers identify and better support autistic staff in their workforce, what more can be done to prepare autistic people for starting or returning to a career, and working practices or initiatives to reduce stigma and improve the productivity of autistic employees.
Companies too often recruit for social skills over job skills. Leaving autistic people who have difficulties understanding questions & body language to feel they have failed a job interview before it's started.
Change how you interview. #HireDifferent: https://t.co/A88zczxmj2 pic.twitter.com/ionnli6AZI
— Autistica (@Autistica) March 28, 2023
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the review, announced on World Autism Awareness Day, will ask businesses, employment organisations, specialist support groups and autistic people to help identify barriers to work.
Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland said he is “delighted” to have been appointed to lead the review.
He said: “Our workplaces and businesses would benefit so much from the huge potential that autistic people represent.
“If we close the employment gap for autistic people, it will not just mean individual fulfilment but a significant boost to employment and productivity for our country.”
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Tom Pursglove said autistic people can face barriers moving into work and staying there, which is “often down to the employers themselves not having the tools to support autistic people, or truly understanding the value of a neurodiverse workforce”.
Many of the adjustments and initiatives that would benefit autistic people could also benefit a wider group of people who think differently, including those with other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia, the DWP said.
UK autism research and campaigning charity Autistica has called for a doubling of the employment rate for autistic people by 2030.
Welcoming the review, its chief executive Dr James Cusack said: “This will help us to rethink how we approach autistic people’s access to work and perhaps drive a wider rethink around how we accommodate everyone in work, as we all think differently with unique strengths, challenges and needs.”
Tim Nicholls, head of influencing and research at the National Autistic Society, also welcomed the announcement.
He said: “Urgent action is needed as the autism employment gap is still far too wide, with only 29% of autistic people in employment, compared to around half of all disabled people and 80% of non-disabled people.
“Autistic people have a huge amount to offer employers, and more and more businesses are recognising the benefits of having a diverse workforce full of people who offer a variety of skills and different ways of thinking.”
He said the review alone will not ensure autistic people “are able to fully realise their potential in the workplace” but that it is a “really valuable step towards closing the employment gap”.
He called for the Government to also “fully fund its national autism strategy so that autistic people can get the vital support they need”.
The Government has said the Buckland review is intended to complement the national strategy.