NAT Progress Report – Spring 2024

Governance and Management

Leneh Buckle retired as a NAT director in April 2023 and we invited Jo Minchin to join the NAT Board.

Public Relations

This year we have undertaken significant updating of the NAT’s online presence. Our website has been updated to reflect NAT’s current work, projects and publications. We have ensured that we have a presence and the ability to post to several social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram and X. This will enable us to better publicise NAT’s work and NAT events moving forward.

Networking and Representation

Jo Minchin continues to serve as NAT’s representative on the Executive Board of EUCAP (the European Council of Autistic People), of which NAT is an associate member, as well as several DHSC-led committees.

Yo Dunn has joined the National Mental Capacity Forum, as a NAT representative.

Jo Minchin and Yo Dunn continue to represent NAT on the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Homes not Hospitals group and a NAT representative attends the Workforce Autism Group England (WAGE) organised by HEE, Skills for Health and Skills for Care. However, the latter seems to be becoming less meaningful and we have scaled back involvement as a result.

The NAT has been invited to run a workshop at a national conference for health and social care commissioners in December. We have also been invited to deliver a regional one day conference on autism for social workers in November by the BASW Black Country branch.

Recent projects

Inclusive Governance

We completed the Scottish Autism Inclusive Governance project. The final report and a webinar presenting our findings are now available on the NAT website here. Our work was described by Dorry McLaughlin (Chief Executive) as the most effective consultancy she has ever experienced.

Skills for Care Discussion Paper

This was finally published in January and is available on Skills for Care’s website here. We also had significant input into rewriting the content of SfC’s webpages on ‘Behaviour’ here which we hope will help to influence the social care sector.

Future projects

EQUALS (Ethical Quality Autistic-Led Support)

We were successful in our bid for NIHR funding of almost £350K for this project, formally titled NIHR206559 – Developing and applying new autistic-led standards for social care environments: a participatory action research study of Ethical Quality Autistic-Led Support (EQUALS). The NAT is a lead participant and Yo Dunn is the joint principal investigator.

The project will be undertaken in collaboration with the University of Sussex (Dr David Orr, joint principal investigator), the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh. The project will start in January 2025 and run for 2 years. Much of the work will be undertaken by a post-doctoral researcher employed by the project, but with NAT input and guidance throughout.

Essentially the project will trial ways of implementing the NAT guide to quality care for autistic people in supported living and residential social care services and produce materials to guide implementation. Many of those materials will be made open access, due to the public funding of the project. Where additional support materials are developed, it is likely that the University of Sussex will own the IP and handle any associated risks, but the NAT will be the primary beneficiary of any profit. Discussions are currently underway about drafting IP agreements to that effect.

Other projects

NAT is also involved in a much smaller capacity in two other research projects. The first is an extension to an NIHR funded project reviewing access to general practice for autistic adults, to extend the research to include autistic adults with learning disabilities. The NAT has been invited to support the project in facilitating the participation of autistic adults with learning disabilities.

The second is a bid for UK Research Council funding for a project bringing together academics from psychiatry, psychology, ethnography, neuroscience and arts to develop a systematic phenomenology of autism. Again, the NAT has been asked to participate to improve the consideration of the needs of ‘the other half’ in the project.

Financial situation

NAT’s funds currently stand at £43k, which is decrease on a year ago. This is largely due to NAT’s running costs of approx. £13k per annum, combined with the costs of reprinting a further 2000 copies of the NAT Guide and printing 1000 hard copies of the Skills for Care discussion paper. We consider the later a productive use of NAT funds since Yo and Jo have ongoing regular opportunities to place these directly in the hands of crucial health and social care staff including commissioners, social workers and others through training activities and attendance at CTRs.

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