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Annie Sands

I have been a Welfare Rights Adviser for over 30 years, mainly employed in the voluntary sector. I have been working for Autism Anglia for 11 years in different roles within the organisation. I am now the manager of our new North East Essex Advocacy Service, and incredibly proud of the team.

I am thrilled that our Welfare Rights department is recognised as one of the best nationally. We have influenced changes in social security legislation and carry a 100% success rate at tribunal.

I helped write the Autism Insight Report for Personal Independence Payment assessors, and I am the author of Autism Anglia’s Autism Passport. The Passport is widely used in courts, prisons, DWP and medical settings. 

I have three grown-up children with autism, all with varying needs, and I was also diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2015. I try to focus on the benefits of being an Aspie rather than the negatives, which is not always easy.

When I’m not working, I like to read, walk, attend church and crochet. 

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Kim Mayhead

I started my journey with Autism 19 years ago. I am a mum to three autistic children, and they are all affected by co-morbid disorders too. I started a support group on Facebook for parents with children with SEND eight years ago and what started as a small community is now 5400 members strong. I have endeavoured to create a collective voice and a network of peer-to-peer support, advice, and guidance for parents to gain knowledge, empowerment, support, and friendship. I am legally trained in Education law and can support parents at tribunal level.  I am so lucky to have this opportunity to bring the support I have provided to parents in NE Essex to Autism Anglia’s advocacy service where we aim to further empower parents through the maze of statutory services and to support the whole family to have better life chances and outcomes.

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Melanie Belcher

Hello, my name is Mel and I am a lead Advocate for health and social care within Autism Anglia. Although I have only been in my role a short time, I have volunteered for Autism Anglia since 2019. I have a passion for helping families and individuals access services and provisions that they are entitled to and educating and empowering them along the way. I have three children, two of who have a diagnosis of ASD, amongst other conditions so I know first-hand the struggles that families face. I also have a diagnosis of ASD, so have a unique perspective from my own experiences that adds to my passion for supporting others. I am looking forward to making positive changes within the lives of people who access our services, and challenging local policies for effective changes to the whole of the community we support.

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Maddie Starkings

My name is Maddie, and I am the Information Officer for the North East Essex Advocacy Service.

I first joined Autism Anglia in August 2019 as an apprentice for the former Autism Advice Service and then the Fundraising Team. Since then, I have worked as the Receptionist and Admin Assistant at our Head Office.

Having worked for the charity in various roles, I have gained much experience in dealing with a range of enquiries and built a wide knowledge of Autism services.

As the Information Officer for advocacy, I am responsible for organising and managing the referrals for this new and exciting service! As well as providing information to support enquiries and signposting where necessary.

I enjoy that my job is playing a part in helping other people’s lives. The team are lovely to work with and I look forward to seeing what the Advocacy Service will, and is already, accomplishing!