AN initiative has been launched in the district to support autistic people into work.

The venture is being spearheaded by disability charity United Response, in partnership with Bradford Council.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the UK-wide employment rate for autistic people in 2021 was just 29 per cent, compared to 53.5 per cent for people generally with disabilities and 81.6 per cent for non-disabled.

As part of the new service, daytime activities are being provided to people across the Bradford district who have learning disabilities or autism.

And a five-step employment support programme, running until the end of March 2025, will help match 100 participants with the right roles and employers.

The project is being funded through a successful application by Bradford Council to the Department for Work and Pensions, which is distributing £7.6 million nationally to support people with autism and learning disabilities to find work, and it will form part of the so-called Bradford Autism Pathway.

Amongst those being supported by the programme is Connor Cairney, who has taken up a post at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

"I am really happy to have the extra support as I start my job," he said.

"During the interview process I was asked about my autism and how they could help support me, which was really useful.

"I'm excited to start my job and I hope more autistic people will get whatever extra support they need to showcase their skills."

United Response also provides community supported living and registered care services for people with learning disabilities throughout the district.

Joanne Milburn, business development manager with the charity, says: "Employment can be life changing.

"Many people with learning disabilities and autism can feel isolated from their communities.

"As well as a financial benefit, people who have been through supported employment programmes often report a new sense of purpose and connection with others, that can lead them on to new opportunities for development."

The new partnership is welcomed by Bradford Council.

Its strategic director for health and wellbeing, Iain Macbeath, said: "We can see from statistics and research that we have a great deal to do. This initiative to support those with autism is much needed, and working in partnership with United Response it will allow us to provide flexible, tailored advice and guidance to suit individual needs as well as building on their strengths in order to secure fulfilling employment opportunities."