Autistic UK CIC has recently undergone a large change in its Directorships in order to incorporate a variety of backgrounds and skill sets.
Meet the Directors:
Willow Holloway – Chair of Directors
Willow is an Autistic Advocate and Lived Experience Consultant and is best known for her work within Wales
Willow founded The Autistic Women’s Empowerment Project (AWE) in 2014 as an awareness-raising project. Willow’s personal role and the AWE Project have evolved beyond recognition to campaign for recognition, acceptance and equality for Autistic women and girls across Wales and advocates on their behalf.
Willow is also the parent of two grown-up Autistic children and has previously worked with Autistic people in residential care. She has delivered consultation events and workshops, training for North Wales Police and has an extensive knowledge of autism from both a professional and personal perspective facilitating interactive sessions which offer an informed insider perspective on autism.
Willow joined Autistic UK in 2016 and her role is very focused on strategic development, stakeholder engagement and representation. Willow also acts as an Autistic consultant for several organisations locally and is a lived experience advisor at a national level in Wales.
Recent engagements include:
- Embracing AS Acceptance
- AS Community Well Being Champions Programme
- North Wales Police Diversity training
- Presented at Cross Party Autism Group, Cardiff, and Llandudno
- The Autism Show (London and Manchester) -speaker
- Workshop Presenter at North Wales Autism Conference
- Collaborated on a report to the United Nations lead by Autism Women Matters
- Speaker Welsh Autism Show 2017/2018
- Organiser and Co Host Going Gold for Autistic Acceptance The Senedd Cardiff Bay 2018 and 2019
- Trainer -Understanding Autistic Lives sessions facilitated by AA Autism Education and Training
- Awarded Supported of the year at The Creatasmiles Award 2016
- Awarded Adult achiever at The North Wales and West Disability Awards 2017
- Nominated for the Charawae Teg Women Inspire Awards 2016
- Nominated as an Embolden Ambassador
- Jo Cox Award Women’s Champion Finalist 2018
- Winner of the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018! in the ‘Advocacy, policy and the media’ category
- Nominated for the National Diversity Awards
Julian joined A-UK in 2012. From 2013 he served on the unincorporated A-UK’s committee and in May 2019, became a Director of the CIC. He became an activist following the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; frustrated that reasonable adjustment for hidden disabilities were being sadly overlooked because of a lack of knowledge and understanding at the time.
He has involved himself in Sussex from advocating to his local government employer and social housing tenant groups to sitting on the West Sussex Autism Program Board, consultations with Sussex Policing and Criminal Justice representatives, local Clinical Academic Groups, DWP, and housing providers about the NHS Transforming Care Program (TCP). This drive for Autistic acceptance oversaw the creation and launch of the Going Gold campaign
“I want for future generations not to have to beg society for simple understanding, representation and our basic human rights as has been the case over the last 50 years.
One of A-UK’s founding principles was that A-UK doesn’t want to speak for all Autistic people, we want to provide a means for them to speak for themselves. The evolution to a CIC will help us realise this and promote the true inclusion and intersectionality that a disabled peoples’ organisation should espouse.”
Julian also sits on the NHS England Engagement Group for Learning Disability and Autism with Autistic and learning-disabled adults, their relatives, and carers, advising on autism related initiatives, services and policy. The group were pleased to have the NHS website autism section language changed to identity-first when referring to Autistics in general, whilst recognising others may prefer other forms of address.
He has attended meetings and consultations at the APPGA and consulted on regional housing strategy for the TCP. Along the way he’s joined demos and protests, chaired panels and debates and enjoys running ops for A-UK events. Julian has spoken at the Senedd in Cardiff and the Autism Show in London, Manchester and Birmingham, designing and delivering training on autism related subjects from basic awareness to targeted role and sector specific audiences.
Working as the Health and Safety Officer and Tenant Engagement Officer for a housing charity in Brighton and Hove, Julian is single and the proud father of three grown children with differing neurotypes
Julian holds an up-to-date Enhanced DBS certificate.
Bex is a motivated and experienced individual with a wealth of knowledge of working with vulnerable groups – especially people with a range of disabilities, including Mental Health, Physical, Sensory and Learning Difficulties.
After leaving school with GCSEs, she went to volunteer in a Care Home for people with Learning Disabilities for a while, taking them out to the cinema and to various events.
She also has experience as an administrator, helping disabled people back into work in the “Positive Towards Future” scheme at Action on Disability. Bex has also been a Job Coach, as well as a Classroom Assistant for the Project Search Scheme.
Bex started up a Computer Drop-in Class to support both disabled people and mental health patients to use a computer. She also volunteered as a Music Tutor, helping disabled people to make and show case their own music at the Youth Action on Disability club.
Bex volunteered at “Safety Net People First“ as a peer mentor, supporting a manager with Learning disabilities.
She volunteered in a Community Café, helping with lunches and other community events, which improved her communication skills. It also helped her to realise that she is Autistic.
Bex is in The NHS advisory NHS England Learning Disability and Autism Advisory Forum.
Cadno Coch is Male, in his late 50’s with an Llb hons degree gained in his early 40’s; diagnosed as Autistic in his mid-50’s, he is also a father to an adult autist with a complex diagnosis. Before going back to education in his late-thirties to facilitate studying law, having not engaged well with education 5>16 yrs.-old, he had a wide variety of employed roles including butler, farm-worker, foundry worker, despatch-rider, lorry-driver, engineer, mechanic and many more. He also operated his own small transport/despatch company, twice. Furthermore, Cadno Coch has been a home-based carer for family members with a variety of complex needs for almost 30 years which has given him much personal experience of dealing with intransigent and problematic local-authority service providers.
Cadno Coch has been a passionate and constructive Diversity Practitioner within the public sector for over 17 years, working across all protected characteristics for various organisations at both strategic and operational levels and has spent many years being a ‘critical friend’ and delivering an informed and balanced lived-experience/community voice directly into many strategic public-sector committees. Using knowledge gained from academic study, his diversity/equalities work and his personal experience of being a carer and a disabled person, he is a ‘lively’ and constructive contributor at committee meetings and has built many good working relationships with dedicated people across the public sector, from user groups to strategic steering groups, that have led to positive change.
Much of Cadno Coch’s work has been within the Criminal Justice Sector and he is an organisational lead on autism and a Force area Co-ordinator for the National Police Autism Association (NPAA). Successes related to autism within the CJ sector include: Introduction of an autism protocol and guidelines across a Force’s custody suites, introduction of a police based alert card scheme for people who may be vulnerable when away from their home, the introduction of adjustments to recruitment and promotion interviews that support autists, the introduction of a police card-carrying scheme for people who are at increased risk of abuse, having behaviour misunderstood by public and police officers, needing help from the police, etc. when out in the community, policy changes at local and UK-wide public-sector organisations that take account of autists etc.. In 2010 he received an award from North Wales Criminal Justice Board for “recognition of their commitment to reducing inequalities and bringing about demonstrable improvements in the public’s experience of the CJS.”
In recent years, Cadno Coch has been doing similar work within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board where, amongst other things, he has developed a Board-wide Autism Interest and Support Group and he has a seat on the Board’s Equality Stakeholder group. He also currently works as a volunteer for North Wales Integrated Autism Service (NW IAS) where he helps develop training and service delivery, and has a seat on their operational group and is Vice Chair of NW IAS’s service user feedback group ‘Spectrum Voices’. His main thrust in this work is based around seeking to reduce the staggering inequality Autistic people live with across all societal systems and he regularly designs delivers presentations that highlight such issues
Beyond work based around autism and the equality and diversity sector, Cadno Coch has many years’ experience of working with Category 1, 2, and 3 offenders at both an operational and strategic level and has recently been appointed as an advisor to North Wales MAPPA Strategic Management Board. He has also worked as a mentor supporting people with substance misuse and other complex difficulties and others marginalised by society.
Aims and desires as a Director of Autistic UK
As an Autistic UK Director, Cadno Coch wants to bring together his autism work and his more broad-ranging diversity-work. An advocate for the social-model of disability, he believes the autism movement must become more inclusive across all socio-economic and protected characteristic groups and must also develop an intersectional approach to understanding what Autistic people need from society and can contribute to it. To achieve this, it needs to reach out to, engage with, and involve Autistic people at the centre of driving change, especially those autists from groups further marginalised by systemic-prejudice’. Doing so will help to reduce the unacceptable and stark inequality all Autistic people have to challenge and will legitimise ‘the Autistic voice’ when campaigning for and driving much needed change to the way society currently treats autists.
Cathy is married with three children. She and her husband are both local business owners, and live in Denbighshire. Cathy’s business and vocational training is as an IT trainer, which she enjoys because it is such a varied role, and because seeing the “technology world” opening up for someone is very rewarding for her.
Cathy’s professional background is in admin and IT, and while she was never diagnosed, has learnt to create her own coping mechanisms for the oddities of the Autistic Spectrum and how the world affects an Autistic’s ability to cope with them.
Cathy is a new Director with Autistic UK, and she’s looking forward to utilising her admin skills to help the organisation move forward. She is a ready communicator and is excited to help facilitate discussions – both training for professionals, to let them know what life is like for Autistics, but with video series, Q&A sessions and guest vlogs – on topics we’d all like some answers for!
During her time with Autistic UK, she will also be able to draw on her experience as Trustee of a registered Charity, Play and Stay at Dyserth. The charity are working to create a fully inclusive play area with brand new toilet and changing facilities, including a Changing Places facility, in the village where she lives.
Check out her websites:
Julie Williams is a single mum of three wonderful young adults. Her family is everything to her and it is for this reason that she has taken so much joy in the fact that working for herself which has allowed her to be around to support her family, having been in business for over 25 years, juggling family, education, contracts, staff and the roller-coaster that is life
Julie is passionate about ‘removing barriers to participation’ and this value underlies all her business and personal ethos.
At 48 Julie qualified as a Person-Centred Counsellor, (PGD) is a mentor for Big Ideas Wales, and a trainer for Network She women’s business network.
Lifelong Learning is another passion of Julie’s and she continues to build her knowledge and skills in relation to Autistic people’s rights. She currently offers 1:1 coaching sessions, provides online group training sessions, and is a public speaker.
Julie uses her education, life experiences, challenges and successes to support and develop women on their business and personal journeys. She motivates and encourages in a non-judgemental, but solution focused, accountable process.
Julie has a long personal experience of supporting Autistic girls and women and is looking forward to developing opportunities to engage with the women in our community to further clarify the understanding of their needs.
“Autistic UK gives parents like me, a platform to advocate for our daughters. Those who are struggling with understanding what is their difference, we know that they struggle but can’t put our finger on it, our daughters don’t meet the traditional male orientated diagnostic criteria.
Meeting Willow and the team at Autistic UK enabled me to talk about my own concerns and thoughts that maybe I could be Autistic, after my daughter’s diagnosis at 14 years old, I am 51! Though I don’t have a diagnosis I recognise from all the research I have done, many traits.”
Kat is an award-winning Autistic advocate with a special interest in education, mental health, and disability benefits. Kat started working in parent peer support while her son was going through diagnosis in 2013. Since then she has been diagnosed as both Autistic with ADHD and has become a vocal and well-regarded Autistic advocate.
With good knowledge of the Welsh Government’s Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, Kat has helped a number of families gain the educational support their Neurodivergent child needs, including in-person support in meetings with schools and Local Education Authorities. Kat has also helped a number of people – both children and adults – secure disability benefits (DLA and PIP respectively), and has a high success rate with those she has supported.
Kat is an accomplished writer, and has been published by the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) in addition to her having her own website. Over the years she has delivered talks and training about autism and education, the impact of disability and benefits on accessing affordable housing, and being a late-diagnosed Autistic woman. Kat has been featured on NCHM’s Piece of Mind podcast, and has been featured in the media, appearing on BBC Radio Wales, and having articles written about her by a number of Welsh media outlets.
Prior to her son’s diagnosis, Kat was a Legal Assistant/Paralegal in a large international law firm. In this role, Kat wrote (and developed training for) the firm’s first Debt and Mental Health Policy, ensuring that debtors who had mental health conditions were treated fairly, compassionately, and communication styles and methods were adapted to their needs. Kat also assisted her department’s management team in producing tenders for new work, specialising in fee structures and projected profit margins.
Kat holds an up-to-date Enhanced DBS certificate.
Awards: Understanding Disability Award 2018
Steph has over ten years’ experience in Programme and Project management, with key strengths lying in Technical, Capacity, and Resource planning. Within this role, Steph provided a radical new agenda for the Care Sector for Livability London; redesigned risk management processes and led the work of the Project Management Office in preparing for internal audit for Diego; and produced a work plan for a strategic business transformation programme consisting of 48 projects (including risk assessments and management) for BT. These, and the plethora of other high-profile projects she has managed, demonstrate the skills Steph brings to Autistic UK to help build the sustainability, engagement, and projects of our CIC.
With excellent communication skills, Steph is able to work with stakeholders at all levels, utilising coaching, training, and facilitating skills to grow the functional capability of any team, and directing effective organisational change. These skills are key to her role as a Director of Autistic UK as she drives real legislative change to ensure positive outcomes for Autistic people across the UK.
Steph is also the founder of ALN Cymru – EHE & EOTAS, a peer support and advocacy network which supports families of children with additional support needs who are unable to attend a school setting and are educated other than at school. With over 400 members in the Facebook group alone, Steph provides a level of expertise and support that is not forthcoming from the local education authorities throughout Wales, and builds the foundations for families to become effective educators and advocates for their high support needs children.
Formal Qualifications: BA(Hons) Visual Theories from University of East London (2:1)