North-based Area Policy and Participation Officer (APPO), Eleanor Thompson, shares a typical day in this new role. APPOs are the policy and campaigns team’s representatives based in each of the National Autistic Society’s areas in England – the South West, South East, Central and North. It’s their job to empower local people with autism to campaign, to support branches with policy and campaigns work and to enable all the rest of the NAS to feed back to the central team about the situation for people with autism and their families in local areas. We now have APPOs around the country - to find out who yours is get in touch with us at email@example.com.
I’m up nice and early today as I have a meeting in Cumbria at lunchtime. My patch is really quite large (from Yorkshire across the country and right up to the Scottish boarder) so my days can involve some quite long train journeys!
After panicking, as ever, that I’m going to be late, I arrive at the station half an hour early, buy my tickets and settle down on the platform. I’ve brought plenty of things to keep me occupied so once I get on the train I start contacting some of the ambassadors I’ve been working with. Ambassadors are members of the Autism Action Network who have signed up to be advocates on behalf of the charity and to carry out a certain number of press, campaigns, or policy actions across the year. In return, we provide them with support for their projects when it’s needed. Work with ambassadors can be really varied. Some ambassadors have local projects or individual campaigns they are working on, while others are taking on the challenge of joining in with our national campaigns in their local area. Today I interview an ambassador for the blog about why she wants to get involved with the Undiscovered Workforce campaign. We’re always trying to think of new ways to encourage more people to take actions, and we really like to celebrate the achievements of our campaigners and media spokespeople. Do feel free to get in touch if you want to be featured on the blog.
Later, I turn to the results of a survey we’ve been running in conjunction with the Cheshire West and Chester branch. This survey is designed to feed back to the Local Authority on the experience of people with autism and their families living in Cheshire West and Chester. We got 111 responses to the survey, we were featured in a number of local newspapers, and even on the local radio. Now it’s up to me to pull the results into a sensible document, and then I will pass it onto the branch officer and we’ll talk about the next steps for the campaign and how we are going to present our findings to the Local Authority.
After a journey through incredibly beautiful countryside I arrive in Penrith where I meet up with Sara from the National Autistic Society’s North Area Development Team. We head over to the meeting together. It’s held in a café in this amazing community resource they have in Penrith called The Rheged Centre, which is apparently Europe’s largest grass covered building. Sara and I are hoping to work with Family Support workers in Cumbria to establish a local network specifically for campaigning. Because of the geography of the area, it can be hard for people with autism and their families to get together, and they often find it difficult to know how to input into the decisions that are being made by the Local Authority regarding services and support for people on the spectrum. I’ve drafted up some plans for how the network could work, and present it to the Cumbria Family Support Workers. They seem positive, so all that’s left now is for us to organise a venue and invite the attendees. If you’re Cumbria-based and want to find out more, do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next I head over to Sunderland, to meet up with Charlie who runs a social group for local people with autism. She’s interested in getting some campaigning going with the group and today’s their annual summer barbeque so I’m going to go and meet them and see whether they have anything they want to campaign about. This is part of a wider move within the National Autistic Society to make sure that people using our services have access to campaigning, both nationally and in their local area. Chatting with the group members, it seems there are lots of issues that concern them, including employment, and while not everyone is interested in campaigning, there is a number of people who want to get involved. I make plans to come back to their next meeting and work with them on an action plan.
I hope this article has given you some idea of what we do as an APPO – as you can tell, it’s pretty varied and no two days are the same. If you have a local campaigning idea contact email@example.com who can put you in touch with the right person.