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Speak Out Essex group led by autistic people launches

19 July 2023

A new group led by autistic people has launched in Essex – with the aim to improve services for autistic people across the county.

Speak Out Essex will be led by autistic people who are employed by or volunteer for voice and rights charity VoiceAbility to raise issues that are important to them, working together with Essex County Council and other professionals who can make a difference. 

Speak Out leaders and peer volunteers will work alongside facilitators in working groups to discuss issues affecting autistic people, such as diagnosis, accommodation, employment, education and training.

Elspeth Jones, right, pictured with fellow Speak Out leader Anne Hunt

Speaking during National Co-production Week, Speak Out Leader Elspeth Jones has talked about the importance of the role.

Elspeth, who has been employed by VoiceAbility as a Speak Out leader role in neighbouring Cambridgeshire for nine years, said: 

Co-production with autistic people is important because none of us view reality in the same way.

We don’t experience the world the same way as everyone else, so services won’t work well for us unless we are listened to.” 

Working with the Essex All Age Autism Partnership Board

Speak Out Essex’s suggestions on how to improve services for autistic people will also be fed back to meetings of the Essex All Age Autism Partnership Board, which Speak Out leaders will be supported to take part in. 

The Board – which is facilitated by Essex County Council – supports the vision of making Essex an autism-friendly county and is made up of autistic people, families, public bodies, voluntary and community partners across Essex. 

The Board has been working with autistic people and their families on delivering the local All Age Autism Strategy since the strategy launched in 2020. 

Stacey Holloway, the co-chair of the Board, said: We are so excited to be working with VoiceAbility and the Speak Out team on empowering more autistic people and their families to get involved with the work of the All Age Autism Partnership. 

This is a real opportunity to build on some of the great work already happening with new energy, enthusiasm, ideas and make a real difference.

Nicola Bishop – Connections Speak Out team leader for VoiceAbility, one of the UK’s largest providers of advocacy and involvement services – added: We’re delighted to be working with Essex County Council to launch Speak Out Essex, following the successes of our other Speak Out groups across the country. 

It’s vital that autistic people have a voice, and through Speak Out Essex our aim is to ensure autistic people are heard and can lead the change which improves lives. 

If you have lived experience of autism then please get in touch – we’re keen to have more Speak Out Essex leaders and peer volunteers involved.