STEPHEN Ladyman will be the next chair of the National Autistic Society. He will take on this vital non-paid role in November when Carol Homden steps down after nearly 10 years as the charity’s chair.
Stephen first started advocating for autistic people and families in 1998 as an MP and he set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Autism alongside the National Autistic Society in 2000. He’s also been a minister and held various chair roles since, including within the NHS.
As Chair, Stephen will lead the National Autistic Society’s Board of Trustees. They provide oversight of the National Autistic Society, making sure the charity meets its objectives and complies with charity law and regulations. The charity has 16 trustees, primarily made up of people who are either parents of autistic people or who are autistic themselves. They have a wide array of experience and skills, reflecting the range of work the charity does.
Stephen will also be an ambassador for the National Autistic Society, working alongside autistic people and their families. He will engage government ministers, corporate partners and other people and organisations to help bring about the changes autistic people and families need.
The coming years will be incredibly important for autistic people and families across the whole of the UK. There’s a new five-year autism strategy in England and a seven-year strategy is being developed for Northern Ireland. A commissioner for autistic people and people with a learning disability is expected in Scotland and the Code of Practice is being implemented in Wales.
The charity’s Board of Trustees took the lead on recruiting the new Chair. They worked with an external specialist recruitment agency and members of the charity’s Autistic Colleagues Network. The process was also supported by an advisory panel made up of autistic people with strong links to the charity, for instance with branches and campaigning.
Stephen Ladyman, the incoming Chair of the National Autistic Society, said:
“I’m delighted to be joining the National Autistic Society, particularly ahead of the charity’s 60th anniversary next year. I’m looking forward to meeting colleagues, members and supporters as I start to visit the charity’s services and at the AGM in November.
“When I was an MP, I was shocked at the huge battles parents of autistic children faced, just to get a little support. This was in the late 1990s when there was very little awareness of autism or representation in Parliament to advocate for autistic children, adults and their families. This inspired me to set up and chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Autism, alongside the National Autistic Society.
“Things have improved since the 90s but support and services for autistic children and adults are still nowhere near where they should be. I am convinced that if everyone understood autism and what it’s like to be autistic, the world would be a much better place. I will do all I can to make this a reality.”
Carol Homden, the current Chair of the National Autistic Society, said:
“The Chair is a vital role within every charity. Stephen has the right skills, experience and, crucially, passion to guide the National Autistic Society into the future.
“It’s been an honour to be the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the past 10 years, particularly as my autistic son Freddy is supported by the charity. There have of course been some significant challenges but also lots of successes too. In particular, our Too Much Information campaign to improve public understanding of autism, growing our branch network and specialist casework services, opening three free schools and developing new services for young autistic adults with high support needs.
“I look forward to working with Stephen over the coming months, ahead of his formal appointment at our AGM in November.”
Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said:
“Stephen’s appointment is fantastic news for our charity and our supporters. He is exceptionally well qualified. And I know he will do a sterling job providing crucial oversight of our work and as an ambassador for our charity.
“Thank you to the Board of Trustees for leading this extensive recruitment process. And thank you Carol for your excellent stewardship of our charity over the past 10 years, particularly supporting me in my first couple of years as Chief Executive.
“I am looking forward to working closely with Stephen in the coming years, starting with marking our charity’s 60th anniversary in 2022.”
For more information about autism and the National Autistic Society, please visit: autism.org.uk.