The fourth Strategy Board meeting took place on October 11th 2016, a few days after the Autistic Advisory Panel meeting. Ian Ragan reported on activities, meetings and presentations that had taken place since the last occasion and later presented the plans for the four workshops to be held in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London to consider how the recommendations of the NAP report might be implemented in each of the four countries of the UK. The plans for these including dates, venues and participants were well-advanced and Ian Ragan reported satisfaction with the positive response to the invitations.
For the later items on the agenda, the meeting was joined by Caroline Gordon from Incisive Health who outlined the plans for the campaign around the launches and for the remainder of 2017. The London launch will take place on January 17th in the House of Lords and will be sponsored by Lord Keith Bradley.
The main item of the day was to consider the draft proposals for the report, including endorsement of the four principles underpinning the recommendations, and the recommendations themselves. The four principles of personalised actions, choice and control, addressing inequalities and a life-long perspective were agreed by the Board and most of the day was spent considering the outline recommendations, and the modifications proposed by the previous AAP meeting. Since many of the Strategy Board participants had been present at this latter meeting, the discussion continued to provide further refinement of the recommendations. The agreed headlines of the recommendations, still regarded as draft, were as follows: ensure timely identification and diagnosis, provide evidence-based interventions, make the economic case, remove barriers to access, tackle environmental and other stressors, fight discrimination, ensure better transitions, coordinate action across sectors, build better information systems, and increase funding of autism research. Each of these, of course, contains a multitude of issues which will be expanded on in the report. Other topics were raised by Board members for consideration in the report: interventions that were useless and/or harmful, pharmacological treatments for autism and co-occurring conditions, and a new section on the meaning of evidence, this being a particularly important issue in the autism field.
The meeting reached broad agreement on the proposals for the report giving a green light to the writers to forge ahead. Ian Ragan proposed a timeline for the next three months up to the launch which will require hard work and dedication from all involved, but is achievable.