Daisy Chain, the Teesside-based autism charity, is urging employers to support their colleagues with neurodiverse conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, warning that the pandemic may disproportionately affect opportunities for those living with autism.
In an open letter published on the charity’s website, Daisy Chain has highlighted the stark figures of unemployment rates amongst people living with autism, with only 22 per cent being in employment.
Research shows that 9 in 10 autistic people worried about their mental health during lockdown; 85% said their anxiety levels got worse*, proving the need for sustained support.
The charity has released the urgent plea for employers to recognise the positive contribution employees with neurodiverse conditions make to their companies and to ensure that they are not disproportionately affected by organisational changes in the aftermath of the crisis.
Darlington-based manufacturing company, Cummins, has a longstanding relationship with Daisy Chain, following the placement of previous service user, George Farr. George has worked for Cummins since March 2020 and has been supported by the organisation throughout his time on furlough during the pandemic.
Tony Waters, health and wellbeing benefits supervisor for Cummins, said: “We are pleased to see that Daisy Chain has taken a stand to raise awareness of the challenges people with neurodiverse conditions face when it comes to employment. Young people and adults with autism and similar additional needs are just as much of an asset to a business as neurotypical people.
“During the first lockdown, George was furloughed along with 50 per cent of the team he worked alongside. As a management team it was key to ensure that employees on furlough felt they had not been forgotten and remained integral to the organisation.
“This was particularly important for George because he is not only a young adult with unique characteristics but he was also very new in the organisation at that time. Since George returned to work from furlough, albeit in a working from home capacity, I have ensured that the team is as cohesive as it is possible to be, with regular zoom meetings, both business related and social.”
George said: “The support that has been given to me during the last 11 months has really made me feel a key part of the team. My work experience so far has enabled me to feel more confident in my ability to carry out my day to day tasks, as well as making me more confident in social interactions.”
As well as supporting employers across the region with neurodiverse employment services, Daisy Chain also employs adults with autism, including Connor Richardson who forms part of Daisy Chain’s admin team.
Connor said: “The pandemic has caused additional anxiety for autistic employees like myself because of disruption caused by the lack of or change in structure. I think it is important that employers must look after all employees but particularly employees with autism as they will have higher anxiety throughout this time.
“I feel I have been supported very well by Daisy Chain. When I got told I was going to be furloughed, I was provided with a timetable outlining when I could come into Daisy Chain to access any support services. I would have felt lost if I didn’t have the timetable as it was the only fixed structure I had. I then used the timetable to structure the rest of my week.
“I think keeping in touch and checking in with neurodiverse employees is really important, particularly seeing how they are getting on during the lockdown. I would have felt quite isolated if I had no contact at all from Daisy Chain, then I would start to question job security.”
With support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Daisy Chain is offering free virtual training to employers to help support colleagues with autism during this unprecedented time.
You can view Daisy Chain’s open letter, here: https://www.daisychainproject.co.uk/news/an-open-letter-to-north-east-employers