A bakery is just a bakery; the young people at Prior’s Court makes ours extraordinary

Dylan Needham, Artisan Bakery Manager

{picture of Jenny in CLC} Only 32% of autistic adults in the UK are in paid employment, despite over 80% stating a clear wish to work. This figure falls to a shocking 16% in full-time employment. This hasn’t changed in over a decade and for people with severe autism, the picture is even bleaker with the current expectation that they will never enter the world of work. Yet, at Prior’s Court 83% of our 19-25 year olds are successfully engaged in at least one work placement, including helping to care for animals in our Countryside Learning Centre, supporting Foundation staff with admin, baking muffins to sell to staff and many more.

We have huge ambitions for our young people and wanted to do more to change future employment opportunities for them. The concept was inspired by a trip to America where we were able to see some truly exceptional projects developing real work opportunities for people with autism. We came back enthusiastic and inspired. Our idea for a self-sustaining bakery at Prior’s Court was born. Baking really suits the strength and skills of many people with autism; highly process driven, practical and with an end product which is rewarding and motivating.

{image of Bakery/branding} Using our expertise in supporting young people with severe autism, and consulting industry experts, we built Bread and Beyond, our state-of-the-art artisan bakery to provide work opportunities and work-skills training by teaching our young people to make amazing bread – the best in Berkshire our staff say! The bakery is self-sustaining but was built and equipped thanks to some very generous donors to our Bakery Appeal. In particular we’ve had hugely valuable support from trained confectioner and bakery guru, Steve Fudge. He was completely won over by the potential of the project while conducting a baking session with two of our star bakers in the making, Jenny and Shaun. {image of steve to right}

The aim is that Bread and Beyond will not just benefit our young people but others with autism outside of Prior’s Court as explained by Mike Robinson, CEO:

Prior’s Court is one of a small number of organisations in the UK with the skills and experience to successfully support people with severe autism into the world of work. Our ambition is that our bakery makes the single largest contribution in the UK to reducing the disability employment gap for people with severe autism by providing a ‘template’ for others to copy. 

{picture of Reuben in bakery} We started baking in August 2018 and within a few weeks saw success. 24 year old Reuben started his taster sessions using visual aids and has already learnt what is required of him. He can now dress himself for work, complete the necessary hygiene preparations and, importantly, mould the dough and put it in the prover. Being able to do this independently is a huge achievement for Reuben.

{image of gloved hands and bread to right} We also gained the highly sought after 5* hygiene rating from the Foods Standards Agency. We are very proud of our young people who have proven their ability to follow very strict, industry standard hygiene procedures in a commercial bakery environment; and of course the staff involved in setting up the bakery.

We never expected him to hold down any form of job. To hear him talk with such pride and excitement about his work… is truly a gift. He may not be able to verbalise his feelings well but we know without doubt that he is very happy to be working. While we are realistic enough to know that he will always need constant support, to know he can be of value to an employer is way beyond our wildest expectations.

Parent of Prior’s Court Baker

Find out more about the products we sell and where to buy as well as the progress our young people are making with workplace skills.