Employment Futures

Employment Futures exists to help remove barriers to meaningful employment for autistic adults and/or those with learning difficulties.

WHEN Danielle Chapman found herself unemployed, she wasn’t sure what steps to take to find a new career or how best to utilise her skills.

The 36-year-old had spent 15 years working as a nursery nurse before calling time on that section of her career due to health reasons in October last year.

That’s when Danielle reached out for help and, after searching for available support online, enrolled on the Personal Mentor Programme (PMP) in November 2020.

The programme, which is delivered by the North East Autism Society’s Employment Futures provision, aims to help neurodiverse adults back into employment.

“I found out about Employment Futures and NEAS by googling,” she says. “I didn’t know if I could get another job or move into another sector so I was looking for support that I felt I could benefit from.”

Danielle, from Peterlee, credits Employment Specialist Barrie Lund with putting her at ease from their very first phone call and says he opened her eyes to the wealth of skills and abilities she already had.

“I didn’t know my worth. But from the very first meeting with Barrie, he just understood me. He really related to me and knew what my triggers were,” she adds.

He didn’t discriminate or judge me, he empowered me.

Danielle didn’t receive an autism diagnosis until she was 27 and says that led to her masking to hide natural autistic traits, using learned social cues and responses instead.

“I was older and wasn’t willing to put on a mask on anymore. I was feeling uncomfortable in my previous job because I couldn’t adapt anymore,” she explains.

But, thanks to Barrie’s guidance and support – which included interview preparation and help with her CV - Danielle was able to secure a permanent customer service position with Just Eat in July this year – and is loving it. 

Danielle says: “In my new job I am challenged, my intelligence is being used and I am getting really good feedback.”

The support she received from Barrie didn’t stop once she entered employment either, as Danielle still texts the employment specialist whenever she needs support in her role.

“Barrie has said ‘Even if I am not here, there will always be someone here to answer you’,” Danielle adds. “I feel like I have someone in my corner now.”

Asked what her advice would be to other people who may be facing a similar struggle, Danielle says: “Do not be afraid to ask for help. There is always someone out there who is willing to help you.

With any kind of disability we have to be brave, we have to stand up for ourselves and have a voice for ourselves. It only takes one person to believe in you and I am proof of that.

Employment Futures runs a number of employability programmes aimed at helping autistic and neurodivergent individuals find meaningful and sustainable employment, including: PMP, DiversityNE, Youth Employment Service North East (YESNE) and Moving On Tyne and Wear.

Contact Employment Futures