South West Wales Jobcentre Plus
Conservative estimates suggest 1% of the population have a hidden impairment and may find it harder to get and keep jobs with a huge resultant effect on the economy. SWW’s work seeks to ‘level the playing field’ and has potential to save millions of pounds of public funds.
SWW autism ambassadors supported DWP’s National Autism week by promoting their work in an all-staff call, they have been inundated with requests to support the launch of similar work in other Districts spreading the benefits to huge numbers of customers.
ASD info Wales now award individual Jobcentres “Autism Friendly Accreditation” when they assure that 100% of staff have completed the training. Many offices in Wales have completed the training and are awaiting certification with Swansea, Porthcawl, Bridgend, Pembroke-Dock, Gorseinon, Ystradgynlais and Merthyr already certified!
Lynwen Rees (lead ambassador) personally upskilled Customer Care Officers as the behaviour of someone on the spectrum can often be misinterpreted and many across SWW have now also achieved their accreditation.
SWW are using customer insight to make jobcentres more tailored to diverse needs and look critically at service delivery. Autism job-club participants contributed to developing a ‘persona’ for someone on the spectrum. All this valuable information is being used to enhance National Universal Credit learning and guidance.
Many visiting/ PIP staff had no training on hidden impairments until the workshops SWW pioneered. Group exercises were particularly effective, allowing participants insight into the every-day impact of conditions including nutrition, medications, travel, communication and home budgeting; challenges people with these conditions may face in most, if not all, PIP categories. Participants felt knowledge gained would support good decisions when considering appeals and they requested further training and longer sessions!
DWP’s services to hidden impairment customers will continue to be improved by SWW’s work and that impact cannot be underestimated.