Working collaboratively to make Inverness Jobcentre accessible for people living with autism
The employment journey for many is often complex, with individuals overcoming a range of barriers to progress into and sustain employment. For many, much of the support they need to do this comes from the job centre, with work coaches working in partnership with the individual to identify possible routes to employment. The work coaches work with a number of individuals who are living with long term conditions, linking closely with the third sector to ensure everyone is working in a collaborative way to achieve the best outcome for the individual.
In Inverness Jobcentre, there was a desire to offer improved processes for people with autism. Following a North London initiative and inspired by supermarkets, cinemas and theatres offering quiet time and ‘autism friendly’ showings they decided to pilot a ‘Calm and Quiet’ session. In preparation of the pilot, front of house staff and security staff completed autism awareness training and the first floor of the jobcentre was decluttered, with a calm and quiet environment created to welcome the participants. The jobcentre spoke to people with autism about their ideas and welcomed their input to ensure the session was coproduced and meet their needs effectively.
Individuals were invited to the event via flyers which acted as a ticket entry on the day. They informed participants that there was no commitment, no assessment- just an information session with five specialised providers including Cantraybridge Enterprise, Skillsmax Highland One Stop Shop.
The event was a huge success, for one individual attending this was the first time he had found the confidence to enter the jobcentre which was a massive achievement for him.
The commitment of Inverness jobcentre staff has been fundamental in creating culture change within the jobcentre environment as well as driving forward service improvement. They have been able to improve their services by actively involving people living with autism in designing the solutions. Following on from the event, the sessions are now planned to be rolled out on a more regular basis with a widened remit to include people living with anxiety issues. Furthermore, they have also made adjustment to provision by offering a twelve week programme which offers one to one support for the first half of the programme. This allows the individuals time to obtain the confidence and skills they need to enable them to progress into a group setting in the latter sessions.