GREAT British Bake Off semi-finalist Briony Williams opened a ground-breaking scheme for young people with severe autism.

Leading charity Prior's Court will provide training and vital work opportunities through the 'Bread & Beyond' bakery in Thatcham.

The purpose-built site was constructed with the help of master baker Steve Fudge, who shared his expertise to ensure it was a success.

Mike Robinson, CEO of Prior's Court, said: “Our aim is to develop and bake the finest hand-crafted goods, using the highest quality ingredients and at the same time, provide vocational training and employment opportunities for young people with severe autism.

"Only 32 per cent of autistic adults in the UK are in any kind of paid employment and for people with severe autism, the current expectation is that they will never enter the world of work.

"This significantly reduces their independence, increasing the risk of social exclusion and mental and physical ill-health.

As well as being there to cut the ribbon, Briony formed an expert judging panel alongside Steve Fudge and Henry Jeffries to taste some new speciality breads.

She became a popular figure on the latest series of the much-loved baking show and was often praised for not letting her disability get in the way of her success.

While the bakery shop is not open to the public, Bread & Beyond products are beginning to hit the shelves of shops in Newbury and farm shops.

They also supply all the bread and baked goods on the Prior’s Court site, catering for around 90 young people and 500 staff members.

Mr Robinson added: "We want to change the outlook for young people with autism, building on our existing work placement programme, and give real opportunities for paid work in a commercial environment both here and out in the community.

“We currently have around seven training sessions taking place each week, and 12 young people already involved.

"Our ambition is to have 10 bakeries across the country, so we can make an even bigger impact on the lives of more young people affected by autism.”