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  1. ITV Report

Inspiring Britain: The chocolate shop supporting young people with autism

After the success of our Inspiring Britain series in 2017, ITV News has decided there is always time for good news - so we are continuing to bring you stories about people making a difference and inspiring others in their communities and beyond.

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Richard Pallot

When Ash was eight, his parents decided to leave Pakistan, as they thought bringing their autistic son up in their home country would be too difficult.

When they finally reached the UK, Mona and Shaz Shah were determined to make sure their son had a fair chance at life.

In 2011 Mona quit her job in finance and the couple set up Harry Specters chocolate shop, an award winning chocolatier with a special social mission.

Not only does Harry Specters sell award winning chocolate, but it also offers a chance of employment to people with autism.

Mona and Shaz with their son Ash, 19, who has autism. Credit: ITV News

People with autism can struggle in social situations and so it can be difficult for them to find a job, however, with the right help, they can be model employees.

Mona said: "Only 16% of people with autism are in any kind of employment, over 60% on benefits are able to work, they're willing to work but there are no opportunities for them.

She added: "They have so much to offer, they have so many hidden talents, and it is just they need an environment where they can actually be themselves."

Since 2012, the company has helped almost 200 young people, offering them work experience and for many, a first chance at paid employment.

The mother of one employee said: “I get quite emotional thinking about the look on Ross’s face when he showed me the cheque you gave him for his work.

"It was not about the money, but the confidence and self-worth he was feeling.”

Mona and Shaz Shah own Harry Specters chocolate shop. Credit: ITV News

Oliver Warren, a chocolatier at Charlie Specters, says he thinks it is great Shaz and Mona set up the business.

He said: "They're like two angels if I had to put it in words, helping autistic kids, like these guys here. They are angels."

He added: "I feel quite proud for these guys for being here and working hard every day, it's pretty good."

People start work at Harry Specters with the aim of making chocolate, however those with autism can often realise they had talents that they didn't know about.

"Here they can actually explore what they are good at, what they're not good at, because it is a very supportive and safe environment," said founder Mona.

"So they might come in not knowing they're good at accounting, and then through their work experience, the work they've been doing here, they realise, 'actually accounting is something I want to do'.

"So John does all our accounting work now"

Harry Specters has helped almost 200 people with autism Credit: ITV News

Shaz says autistic workers have an advantage over others at work, because they are "very direct".

"If they are not able or comfortable in doing something they'll just say 'no I don't want to', which is nice."

"They will not pretend that they're doing something, if there is nothing to do, they will just sit idol or come after you and ask 'what should I do?' Which is very unusual compared to the rest of the people."

Is there someone inspiring you think we should hear about? You can get in contact with us on our Facebook page or by emailing: inspiringbritain@itn.co.uk