We currently employ 860 people but we need to recruit for a range of roles, particularly carers and teaching assistants.

We are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year and, in September, we opened a new school and community facility – named The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre – at South Bank, Middlesbrough.

The centre was opened in partnership with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, and the first cohort of eight children are now being taught there. That will increase to 15 by Christmas, and 30 by the end of the academic year.

In addition, staff based at the Mackenzie Thorpe Centre will be providing support for mainstream schools working with autistic and neurodiverse children.

We are also planning to open a new school in the Stockton area, with advanced talks taking place with the borough council.

A range of family support services will be also introduced across the Tees Valley.

Meanwhile, the Society is extending facilities at Thornhill Park School, in Sunderland, with the number of pupils increasing from 45 to 80 since its opening in March.

An extension of our school at the North East Centre For Autism, at Aycliffe, is also ready to be brought into use from January.

An increase in supported living across the region has led to a need for more residential care workers, and we are also looking to develop additional services in Blyth Valley, Northumberland.

NEAS chief executive, John Phillipson, said:

This all adds up to a major expansion of the Society’s services across the region, and we will need to recruit a significant number of quality staff to deliver the high standards of care we are known for.

The focus on induction and staff training has intensified ahead of the recruitment drive, so Mr Phillipson said no one should be put off by a lack of previous experience in dealing with autistic and neurodiverse children.

A five-day induction programme introduces new recruits to the Society, and covers areas such as health and safety, plus an initial explanation of autism and neurodiversity. That is followed by three months of intensive on-the-job training.

We invest a great deal of time and money in training and mentoring, so that our staff have the confidence to deliver these vital services.

These are challenging times economically, with lots of people finding themselves unemployed, but there will be a significant number of opportunities for those considering a change of career. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t previously worked in the care sector, and these roles will come with lots of potential for progression.

Our existing staff have done an outstanding job in maintaining vital services, and keeping our schools open, throughout the pandemic, and we look forward to expanding our team so we can build on the support we are able to provide for autistic people and their families.

To find out more about vacancies at NEAS, go to www.ne-as.org.uk