Lisburn charity backs campaign

Stephen Gillespie
Stephen Gillespie

A new campaign has been launched on World Autism Awareness Week by award winning Lisburn charitable organisation, Stepping Stones NI.

The campaign ‘We See You In Employment’ aims to encourage more people with a learning difficulty including Autism to think about paid employment as a viable option to realising their future potential.

Paula Jennings, Chief Officer of Stepping Stones NI, said, ‘We See You In Employment’ message highlights their belief that with the right support people with a learning difficulty and Autism can secure paid employment and stay in employment.

“‘We See’ is about encouraging more people with learning difficulties and Autism to think about getting paid employment. Our model of support has been tried and tested and we support hundreds of people each year to realise their full potential.

“Our support, results in real results for people with learning difficulties. We don’t see the barriers, we see the potential in everyone. We see the benefit of paid employment and we understand the challenges. It is our job to provide the opportunity and support people with even the most complex of needs to secure a job and stay in a job”.

Currently there are 30,000 people affected by Autism in Northern Ireland.

Stepping Stones NI was set up almost 20 years ago and have links to over 400 employers. They operate six social enterprises which include four cafes, a wedding stationery business and a guild commended picture framing business.

These businesses serve as a training platform with all profits reinvested to support their work. The organisation is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for the Economy.

Stephen Gillespie (32) from Lisburn, has been supported by Stepping Stones NI to secure a paid job that he loves at Danske Bank. He was diagnosed at an early age with moderate Autism and associated learning difficulties.

Stephen said, “I would not have secured my job at Danske Bank without the support of Stepping Stones NI. My employment officer worked with me to submit an application and coached me through an interview.

“Entering the world of work with a learning difficulty is daunting. Stepping Stones NI believed in me and helped me build the confidence and skills to get a paid job.”