We're thrilled and proud to announce that Autism Anglia's North East Essex Advocacy Service Manager Annie Sands has become Interim Chair of East of England Regional Network Stakeholder.

The Networks bring views, ideas, and lived experience of disabled people, local disability organisations, disabled people’s user led organisations, etc closer to the heart of government.

The East of England Network offers an additional channel to contribute views on government priorities and a wide range of government policies that affect disabled people.

Chairs of the Regional Stakeholder Networks (RSN) are selected by having personal or professional experience of disability as well as proven networking capacity within the disability community in the region they live. The Chairs lead and drive the efforts of their group forward, to help government, make improvements.

The Regional Stakeholder Network bring the views of disabled people, local disability organisations, disabled people led organisations, and organisations that represent disabled people closer to government. Part of the Chair’s responsibility is to create face-to-face forums and provide a channel for people to share their views about policies and services that affect them.

Annie says:

I have worked as a welfare rights adviser for over 30 years and now manage the Autism Anglia North East Essex Advocacy Service, Since the introduction of welfare reform, I have campaigned on the use of the MSE (Mental State Examination and medication regarding PIP (Personal Independence Payment) ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and UC (Universal Credit) assessments. I was part of the campaign for the re- introduction of the housing cost element of UC for 18-21-year-olds. I wrote the autism insight report for IAS (ATOS), I am a member of the DBC (Disability Benefits Consortium) and I sit on the AP (Alternative Provider) stakeholder committees. I am the author of the Autism Anglia Passport, which is widely used by Job Centres and courts. I contributed to ‘Mapping the Health Justice Landscape in England and Wales’ commissioned by The Legal Education Foundation and undertaken by University College London Faculty of Laws. I am an Autism Advocate for the Suffolk Law Project

I have three children with autism and was diagnosed myself with Asperger’s in 2015. I am incredibly passionate about the inequalities and injustice around autism. I am a firm believer that autistic individuals are the best representatives on issues which affect them and their families.

I am incredibly honoured and proud to be asked to take up the position of Interim East of England Chair. I wish my predecessor Naomi Tomkys OBE and her family all the very best for the future. I know I speak for all the members of the Network, when I say her presence will be greatly missed. 

Huge congratulations to Annie!