Novel idea to instil confidence among young people with Autism. @LancashireCare

Lancashire Care’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is pioneering a novel idea to promote inclusion and participation among young service users with learning disabilities or autism by including them on the interviewing panel for recruiting new members of staff.

Harry Henshaw, a student at Newman College in Preston and CAMHS service user, is now on the interviewing panel for new staff with the Trust’s CAMHS Tier 3 service. Harry, who has autism, underwent training with the service last summer along with a cohort of young service users to learn about recruitment and volunteering.

Harry, who is 17 and interested in music from the 80s, vinyl records and animatronics, said:

“The support I’ve received from CAMHS has been useful. I underwent some training on this last summer and have found the entire process very interesting. I was a little bit anxious to interview new candidates at first, but the support and help I’ve received have helped me overcome this. Participating in interviews has made me feel confident and helped me interact with people. It has also allowed me to meet different people and deal with the challenges of that. It also compliments my work at college and my tutors there are helping me out.”

Tracey Hartley-Smith from the Learning Disability and Complex Needs Team at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“People with autism have many strengths and qualities through their honesty, reliability, attention to detail, determination, focus and unique insights of logic in a sometimes very illogical world. They can help us to be grounded and not over complicate matters. It is with this in mind that we’ve embarked on this pioneering piece of work.

“Harry’s contributions to the interview process are unique and valuable – he is able to ask questions from a service user’s perspective and offer his opinion on whether candidates are suitable. He’s so far done around three interviews. He does the meet and greet for candidates, has his own room where he offers them tea and biscuits, and asks his own questions that he prepares himself.

“He has some 15 minutes with them after which he comes back to the main panel to provide his feedback. This is a really good way of getting insight into candidates and also instils confidence into the young people we work with. Allowing service users to volunteer in this way also enables them to get certificates and positions them for suitable future job opportunities.”

Lancashire Care’s Learning Disability/Complex Needs Service in CAMHS service supports young people with a learning disability and autism. A learning disability is not a mental illness or dyslexia. People with the condition find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. It is estimated that nearly 1.2 million people in England have a learning disability (2 percent of the general population).