Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Two weeks into February ...

Well I've got back from the Jobcentre appointment. They were good about my situation and had noted in my jobseeker's agreement the "impact on work" of my disability was that I should not be expected to have direct face to face or telephone contact with customers. I did show them a rejection letter I'd already received by e-mail, the job had asked for "telephone skills" and I'd been honest about admitting that I wouldn't meet that aspect, but had tried anyway.

Have just set an account up on the NHS Jobs website for an application at the local hospital. Well they do have the two tick symbol, the role did look a bit senior but the jobcentre did seem keen to put me forward for it. Well it doesn't hurt to get started with a new account on the website anyway.

Friday, 15 February 2008

National Autistic Society 'I Exist' campaign - letter to MP

The UK National Autistic Society are running a campaign called 'I Exist' about the lack of adult services. The website allowed users to send an automatic letter to their MP, worked out by entering a postcode.

Standard text began:
I am writing to you because I am concerned that adults with autism, especially Asperger's Syndrome, in (town name would be shown here) are not getting the support and services that they need. Most adults with autism are isolated and ignored, are unable to access the right support, and are often completely dependent on their families.

Autism is a lifelong condition but most people have little or no support through their adult life. 63% of adults with autism do not have enough support to meet their needs, 61% rely on their families for financial support, and 40% still live with their parents. The Government, local authorities and health services do not know how many adults with autism there are. Staff assessing and supporting adults do not receive training in autism, and many adults do not fit the current criteria for any support.

There was then space to add persoanlised text so I entered:
I am 36 with a moderate condition of Asperger's Syndrome, and believe I am very capable of work, such that I would not be classed as "incapable" in terms of an Incapacity claimant. However find it so difficult to find a suitable role when so many job adverts ask for people with "good / excellent communication skills", not to mention that the pyschological nature of interviews also penalises people with this condition with such a heavy emphasis on selling oneself.

I would particularly like to see more proactive assistance from JobcentrePlus to help with introducting able adults with Asperger to prospective employers, making them aware of the disability but at the same time promoting the applicants' positive talents too. My own case is I have particularly good skills with computers and numeracy, I would be well suited to work in Finance (have done some temporary positions) or Software Programming (had experience before but on an old platform) however am excluded from many roles by the requirement for direct contact with customers. It would help to have someone to negotiate such job specifications as I often wonder how many employers could adjust their roles within teams such that someone with Asperger could actually be accommodated.

Standard text continued:
For adults to fulfil their potential, the Government must give priority to autism, remove barriers to support and understand and meet the needs of the many people who have been ignored for too long.

Specifically, I believe that the Government should:
- fund a study to find out how many adults with autism live in the UK. This information is essential to plan policy and services to meet their needs.

As my MP, I would like you to write to the Secretary of State for Health to ask for him to look into funding for this study and to respond to the campaign. I hope that you agree with me that it is about time changes were made locally and nationally to provide a better future for all people with autism.

In addition, to support The National Autistic Society’s campaign, please:
- raise these issues in parliament and sign the Early Day Motion 861 (tabled by Emily Thornberry MP)
- encourage your colleagues on the Health Select Committee to hold an inquiry into autism
- write to your Director of Adult Social Services to ask if a person or team has been appointed with responsibility for adults with autism spectrum disorders.

I look forward to receiving your reply. If you would like more information about our campaign, please call 020 7923 5799 (voicemail) or email thinkdifferently@nas.org.uk

Monday, 4 February 2008

Start of the blog

I've started this blog to tell of the tales of job searching with the disabilty of Asperger's syndrome. Chose the title because so many adverts ask for "good/excellent communication skills", the one thing I don't have because of this disabilty. In summary I'm 36, male, in UK.

Was in computer programming until a redundancy in Sept 2002. Had some interviews for more of the same but everyone wanted me to get involved in customer facing analysis and rejected me for not having the confidence for that. So often the employers did not want just a "Programmer" but an "Analyst/Programmer", the "analyst" aspect being involvement in customer/supplier meetings for which the employer would require "good/excellent communication skills" inherently excluding someone like myself. As time has continued to elapse, I also face the disadvantage that employers will not consider someone with the gap in employment that I have now had, and the computer platform on which I had that experience is relatively outdated.

I still did not start stating to employers that I had Asperger for a while though, my condition is at the mildest end. I was temping in general admin for a local public sector employer doing mostly data entry work. After a while they decided in all their wisdom to put me into the "full role" in the department on a fixed term contract for a year, but this full role entailed a lot more public contact where my lack of confidence showed. A month before the end of the contract I had an appraisal with the supervisor saying I "had to be resolute to improvement in my communication skills." This really hit me as I knew I could not "improve" substantially, but at the same time on my medical form for that employer I had put "not disabled" and I realised that I couldn't defend myself against this requirement to be "resolute to improvement" by telling the supervisor my disability, as if I did I'd have been in trouble for not saying it on the form. At the time of doing the form I didn't consciously think of myself as "disabled" anyway, as I wasn't "Registered disabled", guess I had not been sure if Asperger really counted as a "disability" given its non-medical nature.

During the time I'd been doing that temping though I had taken up Accounting courses, as a few people had suggested this would make similar use of my mental skills, added to the fact I already had some voluntary experience as a treasurer in a social club I belonged to. Eventually I got 3 and a bit months of temp placements doing that, though I've just recently had to finish one that didn't go well because I had to receive phone calls from suppliers that the employer was overdue paying, then the day after this finished started another one with high hopes only to get sent home at lunchtime because I "wasn't fast enough and wouldn't cut it". My parents were fairly sure there was more to it than that, namely being "a face that didn't fit."

Don't think my self-esteem can get much lower after this. I've applied for many permanent jobs but don't get offered them as the employers can inevitably find someone with better communication skills and turn me down. It is so frustrating to know I'm so capable of the work generally, if I could find a department with enough manpower for someone else to have the contact with customers and suppliers while I can get on with my job of transaction posting.