Winners of Autism Professionals Awards announced

The National Autistic Society has revealed the winners of the 2020 Autism Professionals Awards at a special ceremony at Birmingham Town Hall last week. There were 13 categories including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, which was awarded to Dr Virginia Bovell OBE.

The annual awards recognise exceptional people, services and schools making a difference to autistic people and their families in the UK. This year’s awards were hosted by Jane Asher and Carly Jones MBE. Jane, who is the National Autistic Society’s President, is a writer, actor and businesswoman; Carly is an autism advocate and presenter.

They handed out 13 awards covering education, health and social care, employment, research and volunteering. The winners were chosen by an independent panel of autism specialists who looked for high standards of innovation, creativity, impact and sustainability.

The winners

  • Dr Virginia Bovell OBE was awarded the Lifetime Achievement accolade in recognition of the many years she has spent campaigning for and developing better support and services for autistic people, following her son Danny’s diagnosis.
  • Lee Corless was awarded Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum for his work leading J.P. Morgan’s Autism at Work programme for UK and Europe, Middle East and Africa. J.P Morgan also won the Outstanding Employer award in recognition of this programme, which aims to hire, retain and support autistic people in meaningful roles across the firm.
  • Hayley Harding was named Most Inspirational Volunteer. Hayley founded the Sutton EHCP Crisis campaign group, after facing difficulties getting the right support for her autistic son Matthew.

In the education categories, Westwood Day Nursery in Coventry and Wilmslow High School in Cheshire won the Inspirational Education Provision awards. The National Autistic Society’s School Exclusion Service was awarded Innovative Family Support and Melanie Whitfield, the Headteacher at Brookways School in London, took home Achievement by an Individual Education Professional.

In the health and social care categories, the winners were Dr Alison Stansfield, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Leeds Autism Diagnostic Service, and The Inclusion Project, an innovative initiative that promotes a healthy, social and active lifestyle for adults with a learning disability, including autistic adults.

Act for Autism was awarded the Most Creative Community Project award and Dr Sarah Cassidy from the University of Nottingham was named Most Impactful Researcher.

The Someone who ‘changed my life’ award was presented to Hazel Lim for her amazing work with the Chinese In Autism Support Group in Wales.


There are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. If you’re autistic, you tend to find communication difficult and can feel intense anxiety in social situations, when something unexpected happens or when you’re not given enough time to process questions and instructions.

Every autistic person is different and will have their own strengths and challenges. Some autistic people might need 24-hour care; others may need clearer communication or a little longer to do things at school or work. Without the right support or understanding, autistic people can miss out on an education, struggle to find work and become extremely isolated.


Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said:

“A lot of our work is focused on campaigning for better support and services and highlighting the huge inequalities autistic people and their families continue to face.

“As part of this, it’s also important to recognise the talented and passionate people who are making a difference right now – across so many sectors, from education to employment and social care.

“The sheer range of expertise of our winners and finalists is staggering. By celebrating their achievements and sharing their stories, I hope we can inspire other people and organisations to follow their lead and help us to create a society that works for autistic people.

“Congratulations to all our winners and finalists.”

Full list of winners

Awards for individuals

Lifetime Achievement Award

· Dr Virginia Bovell OBE

Achievement by an Individual Education Professional

· Melanie Whitfield, Headteacher at Brookways School, London

Outstanding Achievement by an Individual on the Autism Spectrum

· Lee Corless, J.P. Morgan

Most Inspirational Volunteer

· Hayley Harding, Founder of Sutton EHCP crisis group

Outstanding Healthcare Professional

· Dr Alison Stansfield, Consultant Psychiatrist, Leeds Autism Diagnostic Service

Someone who ‘changed my life’

· Hazel Lim, Chinese In Autism Support Group, Chinese in Wales Association

Awards for teams

Inspirational Education Provision – Primary and Younger

· Westwood Day Nursery, Coventry

Inspirational Education Provision – Secondary and Further

· Wilmslow High School, Cheshire

Outstanding Adult or Children’s Services – Health or Social Care

· The Inclusion Project

Innovative Family Support

· School Exclusion Service, National Autistic Society

Outstanding Employer

· J.P. Morgan, Autism at Work programme

Most Creative Community Project

· Act for Autism

Most Impactful Researcher

· Dr Sarah Cassidy, University of Nottingham

Find out more about autism, the Autism Professionals Awards and the Professionals Conference by visiting