The previous report described a number of events for the last 6 months of the project, of varying degrees of likelihood. Happily, nearly all of these look as though they will come to fruition and we have a full programme of work right up to the end of the project.
As mentioned in the last report, we held meetings with the Department for Education (DfE) and the Local Government Association in June, and further meetings with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Health (DH) (together with the Care Quality Commission) took place in July. The agenda for these meetings was based on the extensive briefing documents we had prepared for these government departments, and DWP and DH have promised us written responses in the near future. We are therefore delaying publishing the briefs on our website until we receive their replies.
We have used the briefs in order to advance our discussions with the charities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales about similar meetings with officials of the devolved national governments. Via Autism NI, we received encouragement from the Department of Health for a meeting, and with the great help of Autism NI, we have prepared a brief for the NI government. This is based on the NAP themes of data, evidence-supported practice, creating an autism identity, training and research, and covers health, education, employment and the criminal justice system. We are now looking for a suitable date. Sadly, the politics of holding an all-Ireland meeting, as we had originally considered, are too complicated. We have also had encouragement from officials of the Welsh government who wish to inform NAP about recent policy developments, so a meeting in Cardiff is a definite possibility and we are working with NAS Cymru on prioritizing topics for discussion.
On October 24th, we will hold a “drop in” event in the House of Commons for MPs and peers. We will be joined for this by representatives of the major charities (the Autism Alliance, Autistica and the National Autistic Society) as well as the Westminster Commission on Autism. We have had an excellent response to our invitation which went out with a short document “The Autism Agenda” which lays out our key requests. So far nearly 50 parliamentarians have promised to “drop in “.
To promote our ideas on the need for research, we have invited over 50 funding organisations to our Funders’ Forum on October 25th where we and Autistica will make our cases for increased research funding and identify particular areas of need.
Our Autistic Advisory Panel meets for the last time on November 6th but will be reborn as the National Autistic Taskforce with a particular focus on the needs of the large number of autistic people who for whatever reason fail to get support. The meeting will be largely devoted to planning for NAT which will be launched at our farewell event in the House of Lords on December 12th.
To this farewell event everyone who has been involved in the project will be invited. This is not only to celebrate the achievements of the National Autism Project and to thank the participants for their support, but to look at the legacy of NAP and to express our wish that others will continue to campaign on the issues that we have identified. At the event, we will be providing copies of articles that have been published on our website on the theme “The Future I’d Like to See” in the hope that these will inspire readers to help realise the aspirations expressed by the authors.