20th March 2012 and the eve of the budget. The concerns of the nation are how much more will public services be cutback upon. And yet there, in the House Of Commons, was the NAS launching their campaign "The Undiscovered Workforce".
Now times are tough for everybody, and it is always likely to be the dream of any government to get as many people as possible back into employment, not only to improve the pride of the nation, reduce the amount of benefit being paid whilst at the same time increasing the amount of tax being received through earnings, but also because of the enormous loss of production from untapped talent.
Some of the most untapped talent comes from the Autistic community. Many of these are highly intellectual, in fact it is rumoured that Einstein himself probably had Aspergers Syndrome, and yet only 15% are in full-time employment, and even for these, they might be under-achieving because their employers are not making the necessary adjustments to get the best out of them.
The guest list at the launch party did have a wide variety of the types of people involved - several Members of Parliament, of course (otherwise why have the event there?), people who work for the NAS, some employers and, significantly, a number of people with Aspergers Syndrome, including myself.
I was invited in my role as an ambassador for the Autistic Action Network campaigning on employment issues, and in two months time will be hosting an event of my own featuring the American writer Rudy Simone, who herself has Aspergers Syndrome and had many issues in jobs where she worked before she became self-employed as a writer and speaker on the subject. I am hoping that this event will attract employers and open their minds.
It is very important to involve all these types of people in order to ensure that the conditions are put in place to enable those of us with Aspergers Syndrome and Autism who have the ability to be on benefit to employers and make them more profitable, to be able to realise our potential.
This will be a slow process but for now, the first thing I would like to see implemented is training of Human Resources managers on the issues facing people with Aspergers Syndrome and high-functioning Autism as part of their curriculum. This would be in liaison with the CIPD. As one of the parties of our coalition government once said "education, education, education", let us at least see this start to happen.
It will take the involvement of many people for this to happen. Governments cannot do it alone, nor can the NAS Prospects team nor people with Aspergers Syndrome. We must all learn to work together to achieve this goal.