PRIOR’S Court held a bake-off as it announced ambitious plans to build a commercial self-sustaining bakery to give real employment opportunities to people with severe autism.
The school, based in Hermitage, wants to open a commercially-run artisan bakery which will be led by a master baker, with a workforce of young people.
Prior’s Court is working with experts in the baking industry to research not just the financial viability, but also the suitability of the baking processes.
The charity hopes that the bakery will establish a structured, autism-friendly environment, producing high quality, organic baked produce.
For sale initially in the local community, the charity’s aim is to go beyond this, with bread on the shelves of national supermarkets and a model that can be replicated.
In preparation, Prior’s Court marked this week’s The Great British Bake Off final with a bake off of its own.
Children, young adults and staff got busy baking ready for a panel of judges, made up of employees and young people from Prior’s Court, who will award the star baker prizes tomorrow (Friday).
Prior’s Court chief executive Mike Robinson said: “This project is our most ambitious yet.
“Through the bakery we will provide real jobs and build skills for life and we hope that this will enable us to increase the number of people with autism in employment.”
He added: “We want to create a team of bakers with real skills and a product that tastes great.
“We want to challenge perceptions and raise the bar for autism employment.”
A parent of a young adult at Prior’s Court, Ian Murray, said: “What Prior’s Court is doing with the bakery is creating an environment that actually works with people with autism, recognising their disability but also recognising their special skills.
“I’d love to see people buying a product because it’s a great product and then finding out the wonderful story that it’s made and manufactured by young people with autism.”
As a National Autistic Society’s campaign has highlighted, only 16 per cent of people with autism are in full-time employment.
It found that, for those with severe autism and learning difficulties, there are even fewer work opportunities