An Artisan Bakery Manager has been appointed at Prior’s Court, thanks to funding from Berkshire Freemasons.

Dylan Needham from Romsey will be using his experience in baking and product development to help young people with severe autism develop their baking skills, and improve their chances of finding work.

The grant of over £65,000 from Berkshire Freemasons provided the charity with the funds to recruit this key role. Dylan will be based within a new purpose built bakery on-site at Prior’s Court.

Figures from the National Autistic Society show that only 16 per cent of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, with only 32 per cent in any kind of paid work. The young people at Prior’s Court are all profoundly affected by their autism, so employment will be even harder for them to come by, making this project potentially life-changing.

Jenny and Reuben are some of the first young adults from Prior’s Court to access the bakery. Since being at Prior’s Court, Jenny has progressed hugely in terms of her life and vocational skills.  Jenny has been supported to manage her sensory sensitivities, and is now able to understand the world around her and to actively engage in her life and undertake work placements. The bakery will provide her with enhanced key skills both for everyday life and for future work opportunities.

Jenny’s mother Anne said; “Jenny's work placements and the bakery mean so much to us as we never thought she would be able to have a job. Jenny seems very proud to put on her uniform and was very excited to see her bread come out of the ovens.  We are so grateful to all the staff who have been so caring and patient with her." 

The grant from Berkshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Dylan Needham, the newly appointed master baker said: “The role appealed to me because it’s different; I wanted to get back into hands on baking, but I also wanted to work with people, so it was perfect. For me the most exciting bit is getting the young people involved, and that sense of achievement for them. It’s all about getting the young person into the workplace, smiling and enjoying the process, and making fantastic bread.”

Anthony Howlett-Bolton from Berkshire Freemasons said: “I’m very pleased we can support this exciting and ground-breaking project. Getting Dylan on board clearly demonstrates the progress Priors Court is making and the work he will do with these children could be, very literally, life-changing.”