The NAT will become a funded project in the New Year.  At the moment nobody is actually employed to move things forward, we are all working on a voluntary basis except for the two stalwart advisers from the National Autism Project ([NAP] who are still funded by that at present).

The NAT was launched last week to take the opportunity to coincide with the End of NAP party in Westminster, which was planned before we even knew there would be a new Taskforce.  So we are not fully  ‘up and running yet’.

We will be structuring our activities to strengthen autistic community and opportunity  and access to knowledge – and  will enter into dialogue with some non-autistic key persons.  We have to stay small even to survive two years on £100,000 total but we aim to create a wider network so that people can share their expertise and feedback on issues; this may also form a basis for more local connecting but that would be beyond our scope.

Meanwhile, leaving a message on the new National Autistic Taskforce Facebook page will ensure that we have a findable record of your interest.

Some questions answered

The Overall aim of the new UK wide, Autistic led, National Autistic Taskforce is to:

Work with autistic people, families and service providers, campaigning to give autistic adults a stronger voice in the decisions and directions of their lives – especially those with highest support needs and, often, least autonomy. We draw on deep knowledge of rights and obligations currently enshrined in Law but rarely respected in practice.

Key issues we will address are outlined in Dr Yo Dunn’s 2017 presentation to Autscape: The Other Half.

These issues affect substantial numbers of Autistic adults, primarily those who are less verbal and who may also have an Intellectual Disability… their voice is rarely heard within Autistic communities. As a result, these issues are all too often excluded from discussion of “Autism policy”, when, in fact, they massively affect the autonomy, liberty and rights of a large number of Autistic adults.

How did the NAT come into being?

The Autistic Advisory Panel’s contribution to the National Autism Project was so appreciated that its funder, Dame Stephanie Shirley, decided to give us £100,000 to spend as we see fit.

Who is involved?

The autistic people who make up the Strategy Board, are, in alphabetical order: Larry Arnold , Dami Benbow, Kabie Brook, Leneh Buckle (Co-ordinator), James Cusack, Yo Dunn, Ann Harber (with Katie Nurse), Ryan Hendry, Damian Milton (Project Leader), Dinah Murray (Strategic Adviser), Joe Powell and Catriona Stewart.

What is the purpose of the GNATs generally?

  • To identify and pursue actions to further the overall aims of the NAT
  • To be productive irritants and get action on government policies relating to Autistic care, well-being and autonomy and how those are put in practice
  • To foster continued professional development for GNAT members
  • To develop and establish a community of practice that can genuinely contribute to transforming care.

Why are they called GNATs?

The G stands for Groups of the NAT – the acronym is a nod to the accolade Damian and Dinah received from Martin Knapp as Productive Irritants, in relation to their impact on the final report of the NAP

What will be the GNATs’ modus operandi?

  • To work with people’s interests and passions towards a common goal
  • To foster co-production
  • To find and list allies and also obstacles
  • To use people’s energies effectively and abandon targets that have not been acted on.

Are members there as individuals or as representatives of organisations?

Everyone is a GNAT member as an individual, not as the representative of any organisation.

Why are people members?

To start with, members are autistic people who have shown a keen interest in the theme of at least one of the GNATs and have deep knowledge to contribute. Additional autistic and also some non-autistic people with similar credentials will be asked to become members of specific GNATs as they expand.

At the same time, we will be establishing a wider exclusively autistic list for the purpose of consultative feedback.

These expansions will begin after January 1st 2018, when Damian Milton and Leneh Buckle take up their posts.

What would the commitment to be a GNAT member mean?

If people feel they have time, energy, and expertise to contribute, their energies are welcome – but if they stop wanting to contribute or feel overextended, it will be fine to pull back and stop participating. If and when that happens, they will just be taken off their GNATs’ copy list but can ask to rejoin later.

At the moment the project is scheduled for just two years. However, one GNAT will be looking at turning the NAT into a body that will be self sustaining in the long run.

Taking some time most weeks to contribute ideas and critiques to an ongoing online development of positive action plans and to take relevant steps towards their realisation.

  • Re current shortcomings in how relevant legislation is being implemented.
  • Re how to make specific impacts on specific bodies (such as the CQC in England and parallel bodies, or researchers and commissioners)
  • Share and look out for contacts and links, and send emails to such contacts with content agreed within and presented as from NAT
  • Share anything else that seems to be a positive step or salient idea; actively seek information and opportunities in your daily life to bring to the action plans we will be developing.

GNAT chairs have additional responsibilities to write regular reports, monitor and encourage activity, and note and share relevant developments with their GNAT members. As both Damian and Leneh will have oversight of all GNATs, they can ensure wider dissemination as and when needed.

Will the GNATs be exclusively autistic?

No, on current thinking, they will each have a minimum of 3 autistic members, and numbers of non-autistic members will not exceed autistic ones – but we will make a point of recruiting non-autistic allies whom we feel we can trust.

Will there be a large number of emails to cope with?

No, contacts can virtually all be via the project management software if people choose.

What happens if a GNAT is not productive?

If nobody in a GNAT is active OR members feel they can see no positive effective action, it should give up and its theme be taken off the list.

What happens if people stop being active?

Inactive members should either re-start within a month of one reminder or leave the GNAT.

Are there also extrinsic rewards for being active in a GNAT?

Yes.

  • we offer a flexible honorarium up to £800 pa to core NAT members who are not in gainful employment
  • we are consulting on what practical value we can offer, including vital CPD such as Internet use and research library access
  • we have budgeted for local conference expenses (anticipating meeting members’ expenses but not high attendance fees, unless there is a compelling case for doing so)
  • we think involvement in the NAT will, rightly, be seen as valuable and prestigious
  • Core members will have interesting biennial meetings with lunch and expenses paid

Is there a policy re paying people?

If people are making a professional contribution to the NAT and they are unemployed or self-employed – we will pay them at the ‘going rate’ while funds last. If people who have a full salary already wish to contribute their knowledge and expertise we would hope for their work to be given pro bono as money will be tight.