The North East Autism Society has welcomed funding from the Youth Futures Foundation, describing it as “a fantastic opportunity to make a lasting difference” to young people in Tyne & Wear.

The money will be used by the charity’s Employment Futures department, which will work closely with North-east employers who are seeking to improve their inclusivity, by giving opportunities to autistic and neurodivergent young people aged 18 to 22.

Employment Futures manager, Derek Groves, said: “This will enable us to be even more proactive in our work with young people, and helping them to enter the world of work.”

Derek said the younger generation had been hit hardest by unemployment resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Unemployment amongst under-25s now accounts for three-fifths of the fall in employment, with an even bigger impact felt by those with special educational needs.

He explained that the Youth Futures Foundation grant would fund a two-year programme for NEAS to help prevent young people becoming NEET – “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”.

“It gives us a fantastic opportunity to make a lasting difference to the lives of autistic and neurodiverse young people in the North-East,” he added.

With offices in Sunderland and North Shields, the programme will offer free employment support in the form of twice-weekly workshops, as well as supporting employers to make reasonable adjustments and embrace the potential of a neurodiverse workforce.

Over a six-month period, each participant will also complete two practical work placements with prominent local employers, with the likes of Clearly Drinks, Stagecoach, Sage Software and Brewlab already on board.

NEAS, which was founded 40 years ago, recently announced plans to create around 250 jobs over the next 18 months as demand for its services grows. The charity currently employs 860 people but needs to recruit for a range of roles, particularly carers and teaching assistants.

Youth Futures Foundation was established in 2019 to find, fund, support and evaluate programmes which help young people to move into meaningful work.

Anna Smee, CEO, Youth Futures Foundation said: “We are delighted to support the North East Autism Society in their work on youth unemployment.

“Youth Futures is committed to a society where all young people have equitable access to good quality jobs, by identifying ‘what works’, investing in good practice and initiating new ways of working – to ignite systems change. This partnership will support our ambitions and help to deliver our vision.”

Any businesses wishing to work with NEAS to improve their inclusivity should contact Derek Groves on 0191 4109974.