Around half of working age people are chronically lonely in Britain with those with autism four times more likely to be lonely.
Daisy Chain has been allocated £100,000 in 2019 by players of People’s Postcode Lottery to tackle loneliness and isolation in young adults with autism. Within the UK only 32% of autistic adults are in some kind of paid work with only 16% in full time work, according to the National Autistic Society. Barriers to work significantly reduce an autistic individual’s ability to achieve financial independence and autonomy while heightening feelings of loneliness, isolation from the community and causing mental health issues.
Daisy Chain is using the £100,000 to support the running of an Employability Course to give young adults new skills to increase their potential for gaining employment and volunteering opportunities.
Students learn skills such as team working, customer service and communication based in a real working environment at the charity’s Superstore at Portrack Lane in Stockton.
Like so many young adults with autism, Ben Neasham, from Darlington, was struggling to find something meaningful to fill his days with having completed college.
Diagnosed with and autism spectrum disorder at the age of ten, Ben, now 22, struggled through school and college with sensory issues – and parents Joanne and Andrew were concerned about what he would do as a young adult.
It was while they were attending a job fair with Ben that they encountered Daisy Chain and discovered the charity’s Employability Course.
Ben was enrolled and completed the course, gaining new skills and confidence and has now gained a volunteering post at The Dog’s Trust, Darlington. He has also passed his driving test so he can independently get himself to work from his Darlington home.
Joanne and Andrew are delighted at his progress since attending the Employability Course. Says Joanne, ‘After the job fair we picked up the phone and made that call, I wish we had done it sooner.
‘Ben really enjoyed the course, all the time he attended he never came back having had a bad day. That was brilliant because he didn’t have an easy time at school or college.’
Sarah Moore, Daisy Chain employability coordinator, found Ben a volunteer placement at The Dog’s Trust once he had completed the Employability Course and she is supporting his integration into the role and gradually building up his hours.
At The Dog’s Trust Centre at Sadberge, Ben has started by exercising the dogs. ‘I enjoy it, I get to walk lots of different dogs.’
Andrew says, ‘Ben has come on leaps and bounds from the course at Daisy Chain. His confidence is boosted and being able to drive himself there is great for his independence. He will also now go and do a bit of shopping in the car by himself.’
Neeraj Sharma, Daisy Chain chief executive, said: ‘Through consultation, parents have told us that they are anxious about what will happen to their children as adults with autism. Mental health decline is a real concern; over 70% of austic people have had a mental health problem. Autistica statistics reveal that those with autism are 28 times more likely to think about or attempt suicide. Research suggests this could be due to high levels of unemployment and difficulties accessing support.
‘It demonstrates how important it is to us as a support charity for families affected by autism, to help tackle this issue and put measures in place to increase the skills of young adults on the autistic spectrum. We are extremely grateful to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for recognising this need and funding us in this area of our work.’