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Council’s Kickstart employment programme supports young person with autism

Article date - 21 July 2021

A young autistic man from St Helens has come in for high praise after thriving during a national employment initiative delivered locally by St Helens Borough Council.
Ever Evolving

Thomas Hunt, 21, from Thatto Heath is part way through a six-month paid Kickstart placement at Ever-Evolving, an adult social day care provision in Parr for young adults with learning difficulties. 

After attending Ever-Evolving as a service user, shy and aware that he needed to work on his social skills, Thomas went onto build the confidence to ask staff if he could help out with any tasks. Recognising his potential, Director, Marie Cunliffe, applied for a Kickstart role through St Helens Borough Council. 

Since starting his placement in June, Thomas has gone from strength to strength, carrying out duties such as setting up and leading activities, helping with cooking and cleaning up – as well as recently achieving a food hygiene qualification, with a first aid course next in his sights. 

Thomas said: “I enjoyed my time here when I used to come a few times a week as a service user, so it’s good to be able to work in a familiar environment with people who I know. 

“Since starting work, I have become more confident and can do a lot more things for myself now and looking forward to developing even more.” 

Speaking of her pride on the amount of progress Thomas has made in a short space of time, Marie, who has worked with young people and adults with special educational needs for a number of years, said:  

“I couldn’t just sit on Thomas’s potential and so I contacted the council about the Kickstart scheme which I thought sounded like a really good initiative to support young people with training and opportunities to gain experience in the workplace. 

“Thomas fits the bill for us perfectly here. He’s so attentive to the other service users who have a range of different needs. We are so proud of Tom and want the best experience for him to equip him with as many skills and qualifications as we can – either to stay on with us or to stand him in good stead if other opportunities come about. 

“The Kickstart programme has been a big help to my businesses, which has only been going since April this year, and I would recommend it to anyone. So much so that we have another starter joining us soon who we’re looking forward to supporting like we have with Thomas.” 

Congratulating Thomas on his achievements during a recent visit, Councillor Kate Groucutt, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Business, said: 

"It was great to meet Thomas and hear about his new role, gained with the support of Ever-Evolving and the council's Ways to Work team.  His pride in his own achievements was clear to see, and he told us he had grown in confidence and enjoyed being a role model for other young people attending the service.  

“As a council, we are committed to ensuring young people have the best start in life, and promoting good health, independence and care across our communities. We firmly believe that everyone has something to offer our community. No-one is written off and support is available to help anyone who wants to gain new skills and get a job. I’m confident there will be plenty more success stories like Tom’s in the future.” 

To find out more about the Kickstart programme, or what other employment and training opportunities are available in St Helens borough, you can call in at the new Ways to Work centre, open Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm, in Church Square Shopping Centre, St Helens Town centre. 

Alternatively, you can visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/business/ways-to-work/, email waystowork@sthelens.gov.uk or call 01744 676131.