Ten of our branches from all over Wales were at the National Assembly for Wales this week to discuss autism issues and concerns with their local Assembly Members (AMs).
Gathering at the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, our volunteers held a series of brief and informal discussions, successfully meeting in 90 minutes with over 20 AMs – a third of all politicians elected to the National Assembly. Among the topics covered were diagnosis of autism, education for autistic children, services for autistic adults and the potential for a new law on autism.
Mat Mathias from the External Affairs team in Wales said:
"We've never attempted this type of engagement with AMs, but felt that it was important for as many of our branches as possible to meet with as many of their AMs as possible, especially after the recent elections in Wales. It was a great opportunity to make sure that autism stays a priority at the Assembly, especially after all the hard work of the Act Now – An Autism Act for Wales campaign, which has been calling for new legislation on autism in Wales. We picked the last Tuesday of the current Assembly term, when AMs are in the Senedd chamber so that they were able to just drop-by, introduce themselves to their local branch and have a chat.
"The aim of the day was for our volunteer branch members to get to know who their AMs are and how they can help, and to let AMs to know about the events and services our branches are involved with. Feedback from AMs was very positive and the discussions were informed and passionate."
Nikki Williams from the Pembrokeshire Branch said:
"Three members from our branch travelled to Cardiff from Haverfordwest and it was great to meet so many AMs and build on those relationships. It was also an opportunity to share experiences and network with other branches in Wales. It made us feel like NAS Cymru was one big family."
Emma Williams from Neath Port Talbot Branch said:
"It was a brilliant opportunity that we hope happens again. Over the past year we have met with our AMs through the support of NAS Cymru and it has helped us become more confident about approaching them and made the visit to the Assembly a lot easier. We also enjoyed being able to see First Minister’s Questions from the viewing gallery. It helps make politics be more relevant to us and our lives."