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North Yorkshire chocolate factory highlights employment access for adults with Autism

Belgian Chocolate Truffles, Ampleforth Plus Photo: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

A chocolate factory in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire, has produced Belgian chocolate truffles to raise awareness of Autism and highlight the need for adults on the spectrum to get better access to employment.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Ampleforth Plus chocolate factory is one of six social enterprise businesses run by Autism Plus. It trains and provides work experience to adults with autism, enabling them to better access full-time employment.

Commercial manager of the factory, Janet Jay, told ITV News, it is important to mark World Autism Week by highlighting the issues of employment.

These young people want to live independent lives, they want to have a social life, they want to have holidays and they want to work and contribute to society. That's what we're trying to do here.

– Janet Jay, Ampleforth Plus Chocolate Factory

It is thought that one in a hundred people are on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people. It can mean taking part in everyday family, school, work and social life, can be harder. Some autistic people say the world feels overwhelming and this can cause them considerable anxiety.

Ampleforth Plus Chocolate Factory Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The North East Autism Society says recent research suggests 68 per cent of adults with Autism are unemployed. As a result of this research the charity launched its Employment Futures programme six months ago to assist people with autism in securing work.

We try and get them out on a work placement that matches some of their skills, some of their areas of interest, to really try and make a success of that work placement. So we're working with companies to say can we get around that interview process and give these individuals an opportunity to prove to themselves, to prove to us and to prove to you that they can do the job.

– Nathan Bruce, North East Autism Society

Jonathan Raiseborough, 18, is "high functioning" on the autism spectrum and has Aspergers. He also has a talent for art and it is his attention to detail and creativity that has secured him his first paid job as a children's book illustrator.

Jonathan Raiseborough, Children's Book Illustrator Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

He is illustrating children's author, Peter Barron's new book which launches in the autumn.

It was always quite difficult to connect with people really or just to know that you're on the same kind of wavelength in what you talk about or how you react to things. The opportunity to do the book is great. I think the chance to be able to help people, when somebody has a child who is on the spectrum, the situation they are in at the present, which might not always be good, can get better and people on the spectrum can accomplish things and can have all these great opportunities.

– Jonathan Raiseborough, Children's Book Illustrator
Jonathan Raiseborough sketch Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees